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Throwing my head down quickly, I scoop my hair into a bun and flip upwards, securing it as tightly as I can. I step quickly around the gray metallic medical table, grabbing a pair of disposable gloves and slipping them on. A stormtrooper in a short sleeve black shirt and casual pants, a rare sight on the rest of the Supremacy, was sprawled across the table, grabbing his arm and wincing.

Loemi glances up at me, pursing her lips. “He got too close during one of the Commander’s tantrums.”

“I figured as much,” I respond curtly, resisting the urge to roll my eyes. “No other reason to have a single injured trooper with no incoming or outgoing fleets.” I touch the bottom of his arm lightly, pushing it gently upward. He seethes. “Where does it hurt?” I ask quietly.

“In the socket,” he says through gritted teeth.

“Can you move it?” I slowly set his arm back onto the table.

He shakes his head quickly, and I whip around to grab the scanner and place it at the top of his arm. Loemi comes to stand behind me, watching as I activate the scanner and the image slowly begins to form on the inky screen. I say over my shoulder to her, “I think it’s dislocated.” I place the scanner beside the man, the image not complete, and gently raise the sleeve of his shirt. Dark purple bruises, almost black, flare angrily across his pale skin. The scanner beeps and I glance over; indeed, the humerus is sitting lower than normal and jutting forward. I look back at his arm and am able to see a slight protrudence against his battered skin.

I nod at Loemi, who orders the trooper to sit up so we can pop his arm back into place. She places her hands on his back while I grab his tricep and forearm, shooting him an apologetic look. “This will only take a second, and once it’s done, I’ll let the doctor know to order you pain medicine.”

He nods, looking away from me and focusing on the wall in front of him. He gulps as I brace myself, quickly forcing his arm up and slightly towards the opposing wall while Loemi resists the motion against his back. The trooper grunts loudly as a faint pop indicates it’s back in.

I pull my gloves off and toss them into the trash bin next to the stormtrooper’s table. “I’ll get the doctor,” I assure him, giving him a faint smile. I make my way to the back of the infirmary, towards the door sitting in the left corner, past the other examination tables armed with equipment sitting next to them and dangling above. I pass another nurse cauterizing the only other patient’s leg, another stormtrooper, who nods slightly as I walk by.

Doctor Craine is sitting at his desk, fingers punching rapidly against the screen of his holopad. His thin rimmed glasses sit dangerously close to the edge of his long nose, dark gray hair slicked back, donned in an even darker First Order uniform. He doesn’t look up when I enter. “Doctor, can you order Comaren for table 3?”

“Is that the leg?” He still doesn’t look up.

“No, it’s a dislocated shoulder.” I don’t try to hide my annoyance. “Loemi says it was a result of one of Commander Ren’s outbursts. I assume he was flung against something and the fall popped his arm out of place.”

He wordlessly opens a new page on his holopad, a long breath exiting his nose. “It concerns me the amount of credits going toward injuries inflicted by our own Commander in contrast to the Resistance.” He purses his lips, finally looking at me with his sagging eyes.

I nod in agreement. “To be fair, not many stormtroopers are given the second thought to be returned from the battlefield,” I muse. “But the amount of men we treat for injuries from one of our superiors is indeed alarming.” I hear the door leading to the infirmary open behind me, all the way across the room in front of table 1. I don’t turn around. “I’m surprised the Supreme Leader doesn’t correct the behavior.”

“I believe Supreme Leader Snoke takes pleasure in the terror that his apprentice inflicts on the lower classes.” Doctor Craine sits back in his chair, placing his holopad onto his desk and folding his arms across his chest. “The Order has no shortage of stormtrooper recruits. Perhaps Commander Ren actually keeps the casualties lower through his erratic outbursts. I’m sure the troopers behave better and focus more with someone with such a short fuse to please.”

I can’t help but snort, leaning against the door frame to his office. It’s held open by my body remaining in the way of the automatic sliding door. “Perhaps,” I repeat, laced with sarcasm.

I look to my right and immediately freeze at the sight of the man who I heard entering the infirmary. General Hux’s hands are knotted behind his back, staring down at Loemi as she speaks. He glances over to me and I instinctively smooth down my oil black scrubs. He turns slightly and stalks towards me, not bothering to wait until Loemi was finished speaking. She turns to watch him approach me and I tense. Doctor Craine notices my behavior and immediately stands at his desk.

When the General comes to a stop before me, the right corner of his mouth curls up slightly. “Are you Nurse M17-L33?”

“Yes,” I say breathlessly, quickly adding the “sir” that I forgot to address him with.

He turns to Doctor Craine, who smiles and bows slightly. “Doctor, is M17-L33 the matron nurse of this ward?”

“Yes General,” he responds, and I sense a bit of pride in his voice. “She is one of the few with no official medical credits, but she learns quickly and has been a great asset.”

“She looks young,” the General retorts, and I feel my jaw clench.

“She is, but she was much younger when she first arrived.”

General Hux doesn’t comment on the fact, instead turning back to me. “I’d expect the matron nurse of the Supremacy’s infirmary to have her hair in the standard First Order bun, especially in a medical setting.”

I feel heat spread across my cheeks. I’m sure my hair looks a mess; I can feel that it’s loose and sitting at the crown of my head. The First Order requires females to have their hair in a smoothed back, low bun, with no pieces framing the face. My hands reach for my hair but Hux cuts me off. “Don’t fix it now.”

“Yes, sir,” I say quietly, swallowing a lump in my throat.

He goes on, tone icier than his eyes. “And you’d do better to salute or bow when approached by a superior, Nurse.”

“I apologize sir,” I retort, and I try to keep any hint of irritation out of my voice. “I’m not approached by superiors often.”

Doctor Craine closes his eyes at my last comment, implying that just apologizing was the correct response instead of adding an excuse for myself.

General Hux ignores both my comment and Doctor Craine’s reaction to it. “If you’re willing to let her go, Doctor, the Finalizer is in need of a new matron nurse. The previous one was…” he pauses to chose the best verbiage. I’m not sure if he is truly searching for the right word, or trying to instill fear in me. “...reassigned. I’ve looked through your reports and can confirm the expertise you claim M17-L33 has.”

It is clear through the look on the General’s face that it does not matter if Doctor Craine is willing to let me go or not. I glance over at him, but his eyes are fixed on the General. He tries to hide it, but I can see his reluctance. “Of course, General. I would never step in the way of this opportunity for her.”

Hux smiles coyly. “Great.” He turns back to me. “You will find that the pace of the Finalizer’s medical bay to be much quicker and busier than here. I don’t foresee that being an issue for you.” He turns to exit the doctor’s office, pausing to add, “However, I cannot speak for other superiors as far as their leniency on dress code violations.”

“Yes, General. It won’t happen again.” I assure, meeting his gaze.

He nods in affirmation. “You will depart at 800 tomorrow morning.” My stomach drops, and it takes every muscle in my body not to turn towards Doctor Craine in despair. “Be in the hangar by 730.”

“Yes, General.” I pause, then add, “Thank you for considering me for the position.”

Hux does not respond. His eyes hold mine for a few more seconds, then he departs. Nobody’s body relaxes until the sliding door closes behind him. Both Loemi and the other nurse, Rasi, rush over to me. Loemi places her hand on my shoulder, and I see her face contort with sadness. “Oh, Mil…”

Doctor Craine clears his throat and shakes his head, but I see tears swimming in his eyes. “It’s an honor, Millie. Best of luck.”

I’m not sure if he’s trying to convince me or himself.

---

It’s only when I am forced to pack my belongings do I realize how few I actually have. I place my other scrubs, casuals, toiletries, and few books and trinkets that I own into my black bag, zipping it closed and throwing it over my shoulder. I take one last glance in the mirror. Scrub pants lingering over my flat, slip on shoes. My long sleeve, cross-bodied scrub shirt is covered by my thick burlap jacket. Everything is black. My hair is pulled into a First Order low bun. I make sure my appearance checks out before I exit my quarters on the Supremacy for the last time.

I only pass one pair of stormtroopers on my way to the elevator, and my ride on it is solitary. I find myself picking at the strap of my bag and chewing my bottom lip. All I’ve ever known is the Supremacy. For as long as I can remember, I worked under Doctor Craine. The other nurses are my friends, my sisters. Just as the stormtroopers are, I was plucked from birth and raised as a medical nurse of the First Order. Or perhaps I was sold. Some of the other nurses joined on their own later in life, whether by choice or by “suggestion.” Having no memory of anything before the infirmary, I assume I am the prior. I feel sweat prick my hands and I quickly wipe it onto my pants, just as the elevator door opens to the hangar.

Rows of stormtroopers march to both my left and right, the sounds of their steps echoing loudly against the walls. Behind them, pilots and droids scurry around, while some are rolled under their ships, working quickly with tools I don’t recognize. I can make out faint voices, and I look to see several men and women, in similar uniforms as Hux and Doctor Craine, speaking to each other closely. Directly across from me sits a ship, its wings extending straight up. Behind it lies the inky blackness of space, pinpricked by stars.

I glance to my left and see Doctor Craine and Loemi, standing almost against the wall. I turn to look ahead again and am able to make out Hux talking to a masked man, clad entirely in black, hands balled into fists. Chills run down my spine; even though I cannot see his face, I feel as though he’s staring at me. As if to confirm my suspicion, Hux turns and locks eyes with me.

Without thinking, I abruptly dart to the left, clearing the distance between me and my friends in a few strides. I can tell Loemi wants to embrace me, but she doesn’t. Instead, she hands me a dainty silver chain and cups it in my hands. “It was my sister’s,” she says simply, swallowing. “My true sister’s, before The Order.”

“Loemi,” I breathe.

She shakes her head. “You’re my sister now.”

I feel tears prick my eyes, and I assure her, “This isn’t the last time we will see each other.” But I take her gift, sticking it swiftly into the pocket of my jacket.

Doctor Craine’s large hand claps my shoulder. “It was a pleasure, Mil. These past seven years.”

I smile, because I don’t know what else to do. “Likewise, Doctor. Thank you for teaching me everything I know.” I turn back towards the ship, where I catch another view of Hux and the dark man. “I think they are waiting for me.” I return my gaze to Doctor Craine and Loemi. “I suppose I shouldn’t keep them long.” Loemi nods, and I continue, “This may not be permanent. I may return to the Supremacy.”

My friends just smile. I start to walk away, turning on my heel. I hold my chin high, looking directly at the men, trying my best to seem confident. After appearing disheveled and substandard before the General, and now saying my goodbyes instead of reporting directly to them, I can’t help but feel that I’m not making a good impression. The unprofessionalism needs to stop here.

When I reach General Hux, I remember his warning and give him a quick salute. “General.”

He grins at this. “M17-L33,” he greets. He does not mention my encounter with the doctor and nurse, instead gesturing towards the man beside him. Now that I am close to him, I can fully appreciate how tall and broad he is. His mask is covered by a black hood that cowls around his neck, the mask itself covered in nicks and dents. I can see nothing through the visor. No hint of eyes or any facial features; just blackness. “This is Commander Kylo Ren.” I feel my blood run cold. “You will be joining his troops on their trip to the Finalizer.” He turns back to the Commander. “This is the replacement matron nurse. I assume the Supreme Leader informed you of the need for one.”

“He did.” The Commander’s voice is deep and mechanical, and I almost jump at the resonance of it. “She seems too young to be a matron.”

“I thought so as well,” Hux replies. I feel annoyance bubbling inside me as they talk about me as if I’m not standing directly beside them. “But the assurance from Doctor Craine and her records check out.”

The Commander’s mask turns to me. “Board my ship, we are taking off shortly. Stay with the troopers in the main deck.” And with that, he waves me off, stepping in between me and General Hux so he can speak to him without including me. I huff a breath and walk around him towards the large triangular ship.

I can’t help but to feel a hint of anxiety as I hike up the ramp onto the Commander’s ship. I’ve heard the rumors about his quick temper, his rage; I’ve seen the aftermath of his outbursts. I do not know if his wrath is limited to his soldiers or if everyone is susceptible to it. I try not to think about it as my eyes settle on the troopers in the deck. There are about ten of them, chatting amongst each other. I stand behind them, arms crossed.

I am approached by one who leans his left shoulder against the wall, facing me. “Are you from the infirmary?”

“Yes,” I say politely, giving him a small smile.

“I remember you. You got a comm-link shard out of my ear.”

I instantly see his face: soft auburn hair, blue eyes, lopsided grin. I stifle a laugh, the back of my hand covering my face. “I remember you as well. How did that happen?”

“Not important,” he shrugs, and I can now hear a familiarity in his voice through the stormtrooper helmet. “You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you anyway.” I snort, looking toward the wall of Commander Ren’s ship. I don’t respond to him, so he continues on, “Are you being transferred to the medical bay on the Finalizer?”

“Yes. I am replacing the matron nurse. I heard she was reassigned.” I raise an eyebrow, prodding for a hint of the true fate of the nurse.

The trooper doesn’t pick up on this. “Well, hopefully I will see you around then. Well, I guess not actually. I don’t really intend on having to spend any time at the infirmary.”

“Keep things out of your ear then,” I retort, and he shakes his head.

Just then, Commander Ren stalks onto the ship, a lower ranking officer trailing behind him. Instantly, the chatter on deck stops. The Commander keeps his gaze locked straight ahead, waving his hand quickly in front of him. The door to the pilot’s cabin opens, and he and the officer disappear into the room. Not long after, I feel the ship roar to life. “Does it take long to get to the Finalizer from here?” I ask the trooper.

He shakes his head. “No, especially not with the Commander’s piloting.”

And it doesn’t. It takes a few minutes for the stormtroopers to completely relax and begin talking again. I find myself quiet again, fighting bouts of nausea as the ship jerks and corrects, only speaking to answer the few questions the stormtrooper sends my way. He tells me his call number, FZ-836, and I make a mental note to remember it. He asks my name and I pretend not to hear.

It feels like only minutes pass before I feel the ship beginning to land. The stormtroopers push themselves off of the wall, preparing to exit. I stay where I am and so does FZ-836. Commander Ren and the officer exit the cockpit, the ramp slowly descending before them. A line of stormtroopers stand on either end of the ramp, creating a runway that almost reaches the opposing wall of the Finalizer’s hangar. The stormtroopers on board arrange themselves into a line of pairs and march in unison off the ship. I find myself at the end of the pack, adjusting my bag on my shoulder and following the troopers down the ramp. I can see the Commander has already made it to the end of the line, speaking to a second officer who was waiting for him.

Unsure of what to do, I follow the men in front of me. As I approach the Commander, I am able to hear his voice raising, anger laced through it. “How were they able to escape?”

“We were unaware of the tunnel system,” the officer replies, stammering over his words. I can see sweat beading on his forehead as he stares up at Commander Ren. His fingers tangle themselves behind his back. “We utilized the front and side entrances. Some were able to escape through the tunnels.” He gulps. “There are two prisoners on board, sir, in the holding cells--”

“Two prisoners, out of an entire base,” the Commander spats, and I notice the stormtroopers tense. “And the chip?”

The officer swallows again. “Gone, sir.”

Commander Ren takes a step back, turning slightly to the left. The stormtroopers I was following have since joined the ones that awaited our arrival, extending the line farther. I am still standing behind the Commander, rooted to the spot, my hand gripping the strap of my bag so tight it starts to sting. Commander Ren’s right fist flexes, and I notice the officer’s eyes go wide. His arms jerk, but he doesn’t move them from behind his back. His face reddens, and a bead of sweat slides down his hairline. Suddenly, he gasps for air, only to return to tormented silence.

The hairs on the back of my neck stand, and an icy dread wracks my body. My eyes snap to the Commander, his position unwavering, watching the man suffer.

I’ve seen men die. I’ve watched wounds bleed out, tired lungs refuse to breathe, hearts unable to respond. I’ve watched the life leave a man’s eyes more times than I can count. But I’ve never seen anyone be killed.

Something about seeing a man desperately clinging to life lights a fire within me. The words tumble out of my mouth before my brain can register them. “Stop it!”

Instantly, the officer relaxes, sucking in air and grabbing at his chest. Commander Ren whips around, only having to take one step to be standing directly in front of me, his dark figure towering over my small frame. I clench my jaw tightly, my brow furrowed, staring into the mask where I assume his eyes to be.

“Nurse.” He says the word as if it leaves a nasty taste in his mouth. He speaks so low that his voice crackles through the modulator. “It was my understanding that General Hux briefed you on the expectations of the Finalizer and its superiors.”

A pressure forms in the back of my head, spreading slowly towards the front like lava. My eye twitches in response. The pressure increases, pricking with pain, like invisible weights crushing my skull.

“Disheveled appearance, taking your sweet time to report the General, and now giving orders to your Commander.” I grit my teeth, the pain in my head soon to become unbearable. I feel as if I’m isolated from the hangar; that it’s just me, the Commander, and his pulverizing grip on my mind. “I would hate for you to be reassigned the same day you arrive.”

I glare at him, white hot anger coursing through my veins. I channel the fire boiling my blood and push back against him with every ounce of energy I can, trying to force him out of my mind. He laughs at the attempt.

Finally, he relents, and I can’t help but to relax, my bag sliding off my shoulder to the crook of my elbow as my body sags. He turns to a stormstrooper, the one to the right of the officer he strangled. “Please direct Nurse M17-L33 to her quarters.” And he storms off, trailed by both the officer he assaulted and the one that accompanied us on the trip. I glower after him, pulling my bag back onto my shoulder as the stormtrooper approaches me. All the men I’ve had to treat due to his outbursts, all the bodies we’ve had to dispose of due to his failed missions and impulsiveness, flood my mind, fueling the rage within me.

“This way, Nurse.” The stormtrooper takes a few steps to the left, waiting for me to follow him. Just as the Commander turns the corner to the right, he glances back at me, but does not falter as he disappears down the hall. I suck in a breath, then finally nod and fall behind the stormtrooper.

Chapter Text

“You have such a steady hand,” Syla remarks, standing over me as I sew closed a gash on a stormtrooper’s arm. The wound was too far apart to cauterize; the laser’s beam was not wide enough. I was forced to return to needle and thread. I smile, but don’t stop what I’m doing or lift my eyes from the man’s arm.

Every other nurse is busy as well. Instead of the six examination tables I was used to, this medical bay has triple that, and only ten nurses to tend to the patients. After this, I need to make my way down to table 11, where I have a possible amputation waiting for me. “Where did you get your medical schooling?” Syla asks as I pull the thread through flesh for the last time, tying a knot and grabbing a pair of scissors to snip off the tail.

“I didn’t,” I say sheepishly, pulling off my gloves and tossing them into the trash bin. I glance over at another nurse, who is finishing up at the table next to me. “Will you check this patient out? I’m going to head over to 11.” She nods, and I stand, making my way to the sanitation station to scrub down my hands and arms. Syla follows, and I continue, “I was brought here when I was very young. I was pretty much put directly on the floor and had to learn quickly. I think that’s helped me to be as seasoned as I am, though.”

“Undoubtedly,” Syla responds energetically. “How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?”

I pause, drying my hands on a disposable wipe, unsure of how to answer. I don’t know my birth date, let alone the year. “I’m not sure, to be honest. I know I’ve been working as a nurse here for seven years, and I could talk and feed myself and grasp onto medical procedures when I arrived.” I laugh. “That’s about as good of an answer as you’re gonna get.”

“I’m from the Academy,” Syla adds, and I sense pride in her voice. “I was in the top five of my class.” I smile at her, throwing the wipe away, but don’t acknowledge her accomplishment. She continues on, “How long did you have to apprentice for?”

Syla follows me to table 11, and I stop in my tracks, instantly forgetting to answer her question. FZ-836’s light blue eyes meet mine as he grips his leg at the knee with his left hand, his knuckles white. His other arm is laying by his side, an IV pumping pain medicine into his system. Where his left hand clings, his pants are rolled into a tight band, and below it lies his black, gnarled calf. The severe burn reaches down to his toes, which look charred and mangled.

Syla pauses, her hand instinctively covering her mouth. I look back at her, and I notice her skin paling. “Are you alright?” I ask. She looks at me but does not respond, and she stays where she is when I sit in the chair next to table 11. I turn back to her, adding sympathetically, “The bathroom is in the back to the right. Put your head in between your legs.”

She nods, grateful for my understanding, and rushes back, her arms tight against her sides. Top five in her class. I laugh under my breath, scooting my chair to FZ-836’s upper body, reaching up to check his dosage on the IV. He turns to me, giving me a slanted smile. I return it. “Hey,” he starts.

“Hello there,” I respond, grabbing a new pair of gloves. “What happened here?”

He doesn’t answer me. “Remember when I said I wanted to see you but I didn’t want to end up here?”

“I do,” I laugh. His pain medicine has clearly made its way through his system. I feel I won’t get an explanation from him as to what happened to his leg, so I grab the holopad attached to the top of his bed and take a look.

“That didn’t last long, did it?” he asks, his eyes rolling back as he lays his head back down.

I don’t answer, instead reading the blurb added to his file. FZ-836. Injured in battle. Flamethrower from Resistance member. I grimace, placing the holopad back into its holder.

“What are you doing tomorrow morning?” he asks, raising his head again.

“What?” I ask, chuckling and giving him a confused look. I stand from the chair and lean over him to examine his leg. I grab his knee gingerly, turning it slowly so I can get a better view of the injury. A substantial amount of skin has disintegrated, his calf muscle looking more like a blackened canyon than a human appendage.

While my body suspends over him, he looks up at me, almost oblivious to the situation he’s in. “I asked what you’re doing tomorrow.”

“I know what you’re doing tomorrow,” I say, and I grab the holopad again. “And that’s resting after your procedure tonight.”

He ignores that comment. “So I’ll still be here?”

“Most likely.”

“And you’ll be here?”

I pause as I type, my eyes traveling upwards to find his, which are boring into me. “Most likely,” I say quietly.

He smiles again, and closes his eyes. He turns his body so he is laying on his back. “It’s a date.”

I blow a breath through my nose, returning to the holopad. Just then, a familiar presence permeates the busy atmosphere of the medical bay. Everything seems to slow down, and I find it hard to concentrate on what I’m entering into the device. General Hux saunters towards my table, his hands behind his back and a smile on his face; a smile that should feel friendly, but for some reason doesn’t. I quickly finish my report on FZ-836 and send it to the doctor so I can greet the General as he arrives.

“M17-L33,” he says simply as he comes to a stop at FZ-836’s feet. He glances down at his leg, then his eyes dart back to me.

“General,” I smile, giving him a quick half-bow as I stand and snap the holopad back into place.

“A word?” he asks, motioning me to join him in the hallway.

I nod, stepping away from the stormtrooper and his table. I turn towards another nurse and let her know where I will be if I am needed. The General already began the trek to the exit of the medical bay. Feeling nervous, my hands ghost over my hair, making sure nothing is amiss. I smooth down my scrub top as well, before picking up my pace and joining him outside the door. He smiles down at me, but again, it feels cold. “How was your first week?”

“Splendid,” I say simply. I’m not sure exactly what he’s referring to: my relationship with the nurses, adjusting to the new medical bay, or the difficulty and severity of what I’ve come into contact with here. Regardless, I haven’t had issues with any of them.

He nods. “I noticed in your file that you’ve never been assigned as a field nurse?”

“I haven’t,” I confirm.

“Do you have any interest in it?” he asks, eyebrows raised in curiosity.

I pause, as I’m not sure if I do have any interest in it. I spent seven years on board the Supremacy, and was just beginning to learn the ropes here. “Has a position opened up?”

“Potentially,” the General responds, and I feel my blood run cold. It must have shown on my face, as he adds nonchalantly, “There is no pending reassignment. This is an entirely new position, one that the Supreme Leader and I have been discussing for a while now. It wouldn’t be permanent, something you would only do as necessary. You would still maintain your role as matron nurse of the Finalizer.”

This eases my nerves a little bit, but I still feel unsure. Whether the uncertainty stems from the proposition itself, or the fact that it’s coming from the General, I cannot decipher. Even though he has smiled at me, and the field nurse position was given to me as an option, I cannot help but feel that something sinister lurks beneath the depths. As with the previous visit I had from General Hux when I was with Doctor Craine, I feel as though I cannot refuse. “I am interested, yes.”

The General grins again. “We can discuss it more in the briefing tomorrow.” This definitely wasn’t an option, then. “I will send more information to your holopad to review. You are dismissed, Nurse.”

“Thank you, General.” And with that, he turns on his heel, disappearing down a corridor to the left. Once he is out of sight, I press my back against the wall, calmed by the cool of the metal through my scrubs. I rub my temples absentmindedly, staring blankly at the floor beneath me. It’s a gloss black and almost exactly matches the black of my shoes and pants, as if the ship itself was crawling up my body to drag me down into its metal core.

“Nurse,” someone starts, poking their head out the door. I turn to see Syla’s big brown eyes looking at me. “They need you at table 15.” She melts back into door of the medical bay and I push off the wall, following suit.

---

My alarm rings just early enough to make sure I don’t get as much sleep as I needed. Groaning, I flip onto my back and reach over, shutting off the machine and nearly pushing it off my nightstand and onto the floor. I rub my eyes harshly, and I feel my body awaken when I remember the briefing this morning. My opposite arm reaches for my holopad, and I flick open the message that was waiting for me in my quarters when I arrived last night.

Attn: Nurse M17-L33

Re: Briefing regarding field nurse assignment

Location: Floor 3, Room 7

Time: 0800

A snort leaves my nose. Not much more information was provided to me than what General Hux told me in person. I glance at the time before convincing myself to leave the bed. I turn on the shower, strip off my clothes, and step in, letting the hot water consume me. For a while, I just stand there and let the heat warm my bones, the goosebumps slowly smoothing out and leaving my skin. I don’t know the requirements of a field nurse. I know what it’s like to have patients come to you, to have all the equipment you need at your disposal, to have a doctor on standby for severe emergencies or if you aren’t sure you made the right call. Would I accompany troops into battle, just standing and waiting for someone to get hurt? Would I rush out and help them right there in the middle of everything? Do I stay on the ship and hope they make it back in time to be treated?

I sigh and finish scrubbing my body, shutting off the water with a flick of my wrist. I grab a towel and saunter back into my bedroom, throwing on my scrubs. I leave my hair down so it can dry as much as possible before I have to pull it into a bun. Without thinking, I pick my holopad up again, reading and rereading my invitation to the briefing, perhaps trying to find some hidden message as to what’s going to happen to me and why I was even chosen for this job.

Finding nothing, I tie my hair into a low knot, slip on my jacket, and exit my quarters, allowing myself twenty minutes to arrive. I make it there in ten, the door sliding open with a hiss. General Hux sits at the head of the table, holding his holopad, and he glances up when I enter. “Nurse,” he greets, then resumes his work.

I sit at the chair closest to me, almost directly across from Hux. To my right, but still a few seats down is another officer and what appears to be the captain of a squadron of stormtroopers, marked with orange on his right shoulder. The only being between me and the General on the left is another general, who leans back in his chair with arms folded in his lap.

The door hisses again, and I feel a darkness slip over the room. Commander Ren stomps behind me, his cape whipping the back of my seat, pulling a chair out roughly and slamming down into it. He sits two seats down on my left. He turns his mask towards my direction, as if trying to figure out why I’m sitting in on a briefing. I wish I had an answer for him.

“Well, since everyone is here I guess we can get started,” General Hux begins, standing up and resting his holopad on the table. I suddenly feel very conspicuous, sitting at a table with very powerful, important people. Nervousness creeps up my spine, and I feel my heart quicken.

“As we all know, our attempted infiltration of the Resistance base could have gone better.” Hux takes a deep breath. “However, Commander Ren was able to pry the location of a second base out of a particularly weak prisoner. He believes that the chip has been taken here.” The General flicks on a holocron, revealing a slowly spinning planet. The image zooms into the top left corner, outlining a circular zone in red. “Zslonoth is a jungle planet, and I believe this base is extremely remote and well hidden. We can confirm, however, that it is somewhere within this perimeter.”

Now, being in the briefing, seeing the planet, and hearing the plan, it starts to feel real. I am leaving the First Order fleet and accompanying a squadron on a mission. I suck my lip in between my teeth, crossing my brow. I somehow feel that my inexperience and reluctance will be a burden instead of me potentially saving lives.

“Commander Ren will be leading the mission. GD-294’s squadron,” he gestures to the stormtrooper captain, “will be assisting him.”

Oh shit. Any fears and doubts that were swimming in my mind before pale in comparison to the ones I have now. My eyes dart to the left and settle on the dark man, his chair swiveled to face General Hux. His arms are crossed tautly against his chest. “Why is the nurse here?” His figure doesn’t move as he asks this.

A look of satisfaction spreads across General Hux’s face. “I’m glad you asked Ren, although we were about to go over it. Nurse M17-L33 has been assigned as your field nurse for the operation.”

“Why?” Commander Ren’s response is immediate, almost said at the same time the General finishes his sentence.

“Because of the staggering loss of troops that are your responsibility, whether it was at your own hands or through negligence on other operations.” The General places his hands on the table, glaring down at Commander Ren. I swallow a lump in my throat, glancing between the two men. The Commander is still seated with his arms crossed, but is now leaning over the table pointedly.

“I have never had a field nurse on a single one of my missions,” he bites back. “It’s hardly necessary.”

“Your numbers have never been this low,” the General quips.

“Completely unnecessary,” Commander Ren spats under his breath, retracting his earlier statement. I can see everyone at the table begin to tense. My own hand slides up to my face and I rub my eyes. Now this is just getting uncomfortable. “M17-L33 is a matron nurse and has never stepped foot in a First Order operation. Any particular reason she was chosen for such a high-stakes mission?” Commander Ren stands up now, as if he felt inferior to the General by being closer to the ground.

“M17-L33 has the best record out of any one of our nurses, including those assigned to the field. Most patients attended to in a day, extremely low mortality rate, and the nurses she manages have nothing but praise for her. It was only a matter of time before we tried her on a field position.”

The Commander scoffs at this. “So a punishment for me and a test for her? Sounds like particularly mature decision on your part.”

“The Supreme Leader would have to agree with you, as he already approved it,” the General sneered. Commander Ren doesn’t respond, but remains in a standing position. The General turns to address the group again, “Go to your quarters and report back to the hangar at 1800. Zslonoth is eleven hours distance. This will have you arriving on the planet in the early hours of morning. The base may be more susceptible to attack at this point. You are dismissed.”

The General flicks the holocron off, and everyone scoots their chairs back and turns to exit the room. The Commander is the first to leave, already storming into the hallway by the time everyone else takes their first steps to the door. I find myself at the back of the group yet again, unconsciously letting everyone else go before me.

“Nurse,” General Hux calls. I turn, meeting his gaze. “Your scrubs are not suitable attire for a field operation. I had the liberty of having one of the field jumpsuits ordered and delivered to your quarters. They should be waiting for you.”

“Thank you, General,” I smile, and he returns it.

---

When I reach my quarters and enter, the jumpsuit is laid across my bed neatly, waiting for me just like the General said. I run my fingers across the sleeves. Instead of the cloth of my scrubs, the pads of my hands are met with a stretchy, breathable material. Still a solid black, the jumpsuit has hard casings sewn across the forearms and shins, I guess as a form of armor. Sitting next to the suit, laid out just as neatly, are a series of items: a backpack, a pair of ankle high tactical boots, and a blaster holster. I check the holster and sure enough, a blaster is residing in it.

Sucking in a breath, I pull the gun out and weigh it in my hands. It feels foreign. Doctor Craine taught me how to use one over the course of a week, as every member of The First Order is assigned one. Mine sat in my closet, wrapped in an extra pair of scrub pants. I never had to use it. That original blaster joined me on the Finalizer and sits in a position similar now to the one it held on the Supremacy. The gun in my hand is more sleek and modern; the one provided to me seven years ago was clunkier. The Order must have known I would never use it. The realization that I will probably have to use this blaster sends adrenaline charging through me.

I throw off my scrubs so I can replace them with my jumpsuit. Of course, it’s a perfect fit. I step over to my mirror and what I see is almost… flattering. My scrubs are comfortable and hang loosely around my body; this is tight fitting, easy to move quickly in. I slip the boots on and strap on the holster. I then pull the backpack towards me and unzip it, taking a look inside. Various pockets contain portable versions of my tools in the med bay: a medisensor, flexclamps, synthflesh, irrigation bulbs, stim-shots. I push these out of the way so I can view the other items, perusing over them so I learn what I have and where it’s located in the bag.

I pick up my backpack and sling it over my shoulders. The straps connect across my chest and are heavy and thick; securing the backpack tightly to my body and providing another piece of armor. I find myself in front of the mirror again, analyzing the completed look. I pull my hair out of its knot to place it in a new, fresh one, making sure that every hair is in place. The anxiety that raked my body before is replaced with determination. My fingers run over the blaster sitting in its holster. For the first time, as long as I can remember, I am excited to leave a First Order ship.

Chapter Text

I can’t help but to feel a bit out of place as I follow the stormtroopers onto the Commander’s ship. I finger one of my backpack’s straps, hurrying my steps as the ramp hisses to a close behind me. Some of the troopers sit at a table in the main lobby, others retreat to a room on the left. As the door slides open, I am able to make out several bunk beds stacked on top of each other.

We were late to take off. Just before I was about to head down to the hangar, I received another memo from General Hux stating that the Commander would not be ready to depart until 21:00. This gave us only eight hours to get to Zslonoth at the time requested by the General.

The Commander is in the hallway, speaking to the captain that was in the briefing with us. I stand awkwardly for a moment, still clutching the strap of my backpack. I decide to have a seat at the table where three other troopers sit, unclipping my bag and setting it on the floor next to me.

“No.” The Commander’s mechanical voice is loud across the lobby. “Everyone retire to the dormitory. We are going to make this trip in eight hours. I want everyone rested by the time we arrive.”

The stormtroopers rise around me, all falling in line to shuffle into the room with bunk beds. I remain seated, staring after them, and I feel a lump form in my throat.

The Commander continues on, “I will wake everyone an hour before we arrive.”

The last of the stormtroopers disappears into the dormitory. The Captain says final words to the Commander, then turns and enters a room straight ahead. The Commander glances at me, very briefly, before storming into the only remaining room. It’s to my right. His cape clips the sides of the door before it closes behind him.

I am the only remaining soul in the lobby of the Commander’s ship.

After what feels like hours, I finally stand up and clip my backpack across my chest again. I start to make my way towards the dormitory, but I feel a falter in my steps. The thought of being the only girl in a room full of men makes bile rise in my throat. I’ve slept alone for as long as I can remember.

I take a deep breath and stomp into the room. As the door hisses behind me, I struggle to even find a bed unoccupied. Most of the troopers are turned to face the wall, their armor stuffed into a bag dangling off the side of the bed post. Their blasters lay at their feet. I hear a few snores, and a few bodies shuffle around in sleep.

I slowly creep down the rows of barracks, careful not to disturb anyone. At the very back, I find an empty bed on the top bunk with a trooper sleeping in the one below. A quick glance down the few remaining beds concludes that this is my only option. I groan, and reach up to remove my backpack, before a thought enters my mind. Instantly, I reach up and yank the blanket and pillow down off the bed, bundling them up and scurrying out of the dormitory.

I turn to the left and enter the room I saw the Captain enter earlier. Sure enough, it’s the pilot’s cabin. Captain GD-294 is sitting across from the controls, arms crossed, staring up at the window as the stars go zooming past us. He is still dressed entirely in his armor. He swivels his chair as I step into the room. “Nurse,” he says simply, before turning back forward.

“Captain,” I retort, and I glance around the small room. I traipse to the right corner, huddling down and placing the pillow behind me. I throw the blanket over my body, and it just barely covers my feet.

Captain GD-294 turns to me. “What are you doing?”

“I don’t feel comfortable sleeping in the dormitory with all those men,” I say honestly, unclipping my backpack and holster and pushing them to the side. The floor is cold and hard, but thinking about the empty bed available makes my skin crawl.

“Did Commander Ren approve you staying in here?” the Captain asks cautiously.

“I didn’t ask him,” I say quietly. “I think it would be best not to disturb him over something so trivial.”

The Captain chuckles lowly. “The Commander likes to be in control of every little thing, especially in regards to his ship. You would be surprised how not trivial this situation would be to him.”

“Is that why you’re piloting his ship?” I challenge, slinking farther down into my pillow.

The Captain raises his hands away from the controls. “This is all auto-pilot. I’m just in here monitoring.” He crosses his arms again. “Undoubtedly, the Commander will want me to rest before we arrive on Zslonoth. He’ll come in here and take over, probably fairly soon.”

“I took the last pillow and blanket.” The words tumble out of my mouth before I even realize what I’m saying.

Captain GD-294 laughs again, this time more hearty. “I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

The cabin falls into a companionable silence. I feel sleep tugging down my eyelids, and I turn onto my side. My eyes find the stars, but watching them zip so quickly around us makes my stomach churn. I flip onto my other side and face the door, pulling the blanket up to my chin. Just as I was about to drift off, I hear the Captain speak again. “He must not mind that you’re in here.”

“Hmm?” I inquire, barely opening my eyes.

“Commander Ren,” he clarifies. “He must not mind that you’re in here with me.” I hear his chair swivel, probably to face me. “He’s right on the other side of the wall you’re leaning against.” At this, my eyes shoot open, and it feels like an electric current jolts down my spine. “He senses everything. He must not care that you’re in here with me. He would have come in by now.”

I take a long pull of air through my nose and blow it out slowly. The Captain doesn’t offer anything else, and I don’t ask. Instead, I close my eyes tightly and try to quell my frantic heart.

---

I awake to the sound of heavy footsteps around me. My eyes crack open, and I see a few pairs of white trooper boots, and one pair of jet black ones. I sit up and instantly regret it. An achy pain throbs across my entire left side, as if I didn't move from my position once the entire night. I probably didn't.

The Commander is leaning over the controls now, with the Captain on his left and two other troopers on his right. He is speaking lowly to the Captain; I cannot make out what he is saying. I glance to the right and am able to see a lush planet slowly looming into view. The sight of it is surreal. I haven't even seen what the Supremacy or Finalizer looks like from outside. I straighten up a bit more, slowly this time, to get a better view. I suddenly feel so small, so insignificant, like a single snowflake on an entire frozen planet.

The Commander turns and exits the pilot’s cabin. I can hear him speaking to the stormtroopers that I assume are in the lobby, but again, I can’t catch any specific words.

“Good morning, Nurse.” Captain GD-294 speaks instead. “We will be landing soon.”

I stand up, my hands pushing against the wall to help me rise through the pain. I grab my backpack and clip it back on, undoing my hair to place it in a new, secure bun. I then snatch my holster and return in to my waist. When I turn back towards the window, I am astonished to see how much closer we are to Zslonoth.

Commander Ren returns, followed by the remaining stormtroopers. They hold their blasters in their hands. He stalks towards the Captain, “I can already sense their presence here. This shouldn’t take long.”

The Captain nods, and together they walk towards the lobby. The stormtroopers follow, and I fall in line behind the last of them. I glance behind me and am able to see the ship descending through dark, wispy clouds and into a dense forest.

When the ship clanks to the ground, the ramp slowly opens. Surprisingly, the Commander shifts to the left, allowing Captain GD-294 and his troops to exit the ship before he does. I notice the Captain hesitate at first, but he walks down the ramp and into the dark, muggy air and motions for the others to accompany him. I walk slowly, my throat tight and my palms sweaty, before a strong, black-clad arm juts in front of me. I stop, and my eyes find the Commander’s helmet leaning over me. “You’re staying,” he sneers lowly, the modulator crackling his voice.

“Oh,” I say simply, and I step back. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to follow troops into battle or not; I know nothing about being a field nurse. I grasp the strap of my bag awkwardly as the Commander stomps down the ramp himself.

Captain GD-294 turns back towards me and stares, as if he’s confused. “Commander,” he starts as Commander Ren’s feet touch the earth, “what about the Nurse?”

“She’s staying aboard the ship for this mission,” the Commander quips, not even bothering to glance at the Captain.

“All field nurses accompany their troops into battle, Commander Ren.” I am surprised by the defiance in his voice. It seems the other stormtroopers are as well; I see a few take a step back from the scene. “Some of us aren’t able to make it back to the ship for treatment.”

With a wave of his hand, Commander Ren forces the ramp to begin to close. I’m left standing in the entry way, hands clasped around my backpack, trembling in anger. Before the scene is closed before me, I catch the Commander’s final words on the subject. “Not this one.”

The ramp closes with a clank that echoes across the lobby of the Commander’s ship. For a while, I just stand there, faintly listening to the sounds of night in the jungle. A surge of emotions courses through me; embarrassment, frustration, anger. My hands ball into fists. Finally, I turn on my heel and head back towards the cockpit.

The second I cross the threshold, I tear off my backpack and throw it to the side. I plop down into the pilot’s chair and cross my arms, brow furrowed. A single drop of rain splats against the large window. I glance up at it, and I notice the wind pulling the shadowed trees to my right. A few more drops of rain hit the window.

I lean my head back against the seat, closing my eyes and listening to the rain pick up. This is so stupid. So infuriating. The Commander has made it very clear that he does not wish to have a field nurse on his missions. Hopefully, the General will recognize that and either assign me to different operations or just leave me alone at my medical bay.

The rain is constant, but it’s not down pour. I listen to myself take slow, even breaths for what feels like forever. I’m not sure how long the others have been gone. I begin to feel isolated and even paranoid. What if the Alliance were to find this ship before the Commander returns? Would I be able to do anything?

No.

I scoff at myself. Maybe I would have been safer if I had accompanied them. I’m doing nothing to protect this ship. I haven’t shot a blaster in years.

An idea piques in the back of my head. Before I have time to lose confidence, I stand and stride back towards the lobby of the ship. Once I reach the ramp, my hand slams down on the release, and it groans as it begins its descent back to the ground. I’m greeted by the dark jungle’s thick atmosphere once again.

The ground feels foreign underneath my feet. It gives under my weight. I hear rocks and leaves crunch as I step out into the inky darkness. Now that I’m outside, I can hear faint sounds of men shouting and blaster fire. The rain already appears to be clearing up, or maybe my nervousness has numbed me to the feeling of it. A bead of sweat forms at my hairline.

Without thinking, I remove my blaster from its holster. I grip it with both my hands and hold it up, staring down the sights. I try to aim for a tree a good distance away from me. My finger shakes as I try to get it to press down on the trigger. When I finally do, I’m jolted by the kick of the gun and the loud sound made as the blast is fired from my weapon. The jungle lights up red as it shoots past the tree, just barely grazing the left side of it.

Heart racing, I raise the blaster again, digging my feet into the ground. I try to have more confidence and hold the weapon steady, aiming for the tree again. I exhale and fire, this time better controlling the weapon as it kicks back against me. The jungle flashes red once again and my blast hits the tree dead center, sparks flying and smoke wafting up from the bark. I grin, blowing a stray hair out of my face, and raise the blaster once again.

Suddenly, the shouts become much louder. I immediately lower my gun and race back to the Commander’s ship, climbing the ramp to stand in the doorway. My blaster still in my hands, I lean against the wall of the exit, looking left and right, and I feel a tremor of fear wrack my body.

Two men burst through the treeline, running straight towards the ship. I suppress a scream and spin to stand in the doorway, firing my weapon. My first blast shoots into the ground near their feet; the second hits the second man’s leg. “Shit!” he screams, stumbling and nearly falling.

The first man turns back to the other, then to me. Immediately, he raises his blaster, but before he can fire, it’s ripped from his hand and sent flying into the trees. A dark figure stalks from the direction the blaster flew, and as he nears closer, he is illuminated as his red lightsaber crackles to life.

The Commander.

He raises his hand before him and the injured man rises of the ground. He is tossed to the left as if he weighs nothing; I cringe as I hear his bones crack against the impact of being slammed against a tree. He crumples to the ground and doesn’t move again.

The other man reaches behind him and pulls out a smaller pistol and fires. The blast is deflected just before it would have hit the Commander. He makes a fist and the man is yanked directly towards him. With an upwards swing of the saber, the man is in two. I yelp and drop my gun, turning and slamming against the wall of the ship. I cover my mouth with my trembling hands and my breaths come in short gasps.

I hear more voices, and the Commander instructing them to board the ship. I remain where I am, trying to steady my breathing. I reach down and grab my blaster, shakily trying to return it to my holster. I hear heavy footsteps ascending the ramp and the Commander appears. He is followed by Captain GD-294 and a wave of stormtroopers. He glances at me, holding the gaze but not stopping his trek to the pilot’s cabin.

I hear blaster fire again, and I whip around to gaze outside the ramp. A single stormtrooper rushes out of the brush, blasts shooting out from the trees and landing on either side of him. A lucky shot slams into his lower back and he cries out, staggering to the ground.

The Alliance members that shot him, three of them, emerge from the trees and begin firing at us. The stormtroopers on board fire back, and the Commander begins closing the ramp and powering up the ship.

“Wait!” I jump off the side of the ramp, knees searing in pain as I land back on the dirt floor.

Nurse! Leave him!” The Commander’s voice is guttural, desperate, even through the modulator.

I rush to the side of the trooper, and just as I lean down and grab his arm, I realize my backpack is in the cockpit. My head snaps up to see the Alliance members suspend in the air, being shot to pieces by the stormtroopers. They drop like flies once they are dead. The ramp behind me groans loudly, and I turn to see the Commander at the entrance, his hand outstretched as he forces the ramp open against its mechanism to close.

I pull the trooper up by the arm and sling it across my shoulders, and together we board the Commander’s ship for the last time that night. The other troopers stand back and allow me to sit him at a table in the lobby. I race back to the pilot’s cabin and find my backpack slumped against the left wall. I grab a strap and rush back into the lobby, opening the zipper and rummaging around for synthflesh.

When I enter the lobby, the Commander speaks, “Everyone out. Go to the dormitory. Captain,” he turns toward GD-294, “Set us back on course for the Finalizer.”

“Yes, Commander,” he says, and returns to the cockpit.

As everyone files out, I rip open the synthflesh as the stormtrooper gingerly removes his helmet and upper armor. Thankfully, the wound is not deep, but it does appear painful. The flesh around the injury reddens angrily.

As I squeeze the gel around the wound, the trooper seethes. “It’ll feel better in a few minutes,” I say softly, my hands unwavering as I continue dressing the blaster hole. The ship begins to rise and I lean into a chair to steady myself. My fingers gripping the synthflesh feels natural and relaxes me, but I can’t help but dwell how the blaster felt in my hand. How my hands essentially were doing the opposite of what they were trained to do, what they’re doing now.

The Commander leans against the wall, arms folded, staring as I finish with the synthflesh and reach for a bacta patch. I feel the hairs on my neck stand. Even though I can’t see his eyes, they must be boring into me.

The stormtrooper’s back relaxes as I spread the patch over the wound. I know it must feel cool against his heated skin. I smooth it over gently. “This should do it. It wasn’t very deep.”

He nods, rising from the table. “Retire,” the Commander says flatly.

The trooper takes a deep breath and gathers his armor. He retreats to the dormitory, his back muscles taut as he tries not to flex them under his injury. I reach down and gather my trash in one hand and sling my backpack over my shoulder. Just as I am about to take a step, I feel a force fling me against the wall. I wheeze as the air in my chest roughly exits, my wrappers and backpack crashing to the floor.

The Commander creeps towards me, like an animal about to devour its prey. I try to replenish the oxygen in my lungs. I’m suspended to where I am eye level with the Commander’s mask. If it was bare, I would be able to feel his breath on my face. “Nurse,” he starts, the word dripping with malice, “I dare you to defy me in front of anyone for a third time.”

“Why would we leave him?” I fire back, but my voice sounds hoarse and faint. “What is my purpose here if not to treat your men?”

“Stormtroopers are expendable, as are field nurses,” he sneers. “But the information recovered from the Alliance base is not. I ordered this ship to leave, that means we leave. It’s in your best interest to heed my orders, Nurse. You are testing my patience to an unreasonable degree.”

I glare at him, but have no words. Nothing in my mind can even formulate a response to the immaturity, the nastiness, the patheticness, of what he just said to me. We hold each other’s gaze for what feels like hours before I am finally released to the ground.

Chapter Text

I don’t sleep on our way back to the Finalizer. I sit against the cold metal wall of Commander Ren’s ship, my body throbbing from where I was slammed against it. I haven’t moved from that position; all I did was straighten up. I’m not sure how long it’s been.

The Commander had immediately stormed out of the lobby to the pilot’s cabin, and I haven’t seen him since. I haven’t seen anyone. Neither Captain GD-294 or any of the stormtroopers have emerged. The anger that was spurring within me has quelled to an almost melancholy feeling. I pick at my nail.

Suddenly, the door to the pilot’s cabin opens, and Captain GD-294 walks quickly towards me. “Get up, Nurse,” he says gruffly, and he grabs my backpack and slides it towards me. He turns on his heel and enters the dormitory, and I can hear him shouting commands to the troopers.

I scramble to my feet and sling my backpack on, running towards the pilot’s cabin. The door hisses open and I see the Commander. He is sitting in the pilot’s chair and is talking to someone on his commlink. His hands speed across the controls in front of him. The Captain enters behind me, brushing past me to sit in the other chair.

“What’s going on?” I ask aloud to the room. I clip the straps of my backpack together while I await an answer.

“We’re going to jump to hyperspace,” the Commander says to GD-294, who nods quickly. Neither of them acknowledge me.

Commander Ren pulls a level slowly, and I gasp as the stars in front of me elongate past the window of the ship. Suddenly, they snap backward, and even though I can’t physically feel a difference, I can tell the ship is being slingshotted rapidly across space. I lean back against the wall and press my hands against my sides.

The Captain swivels around in his chair. “The Finalizer is being attacked by the Resistance. I assume this is a retaliation to our attack of the base on Zslonoth, but we haven’t received official word.”

It feels strange to have such urgent, frightening words spoken from an unmoving, unyielding mask. The Captain turns back around, manning the controls alongside Commander Ren. I keep my back and palms pressed against the wall of the ship. My head is spinning and my heart beats out of my chest. Visions of Rebels sprinting through the halls of the ship, shooting at anything that moves, ransacking our archives, or stealing information, intelligence, what have you – makes my skin crawl. The Finalizer appears in the window, and I can see both Resistance and First Order fighter jets zipping around through a sea of red and green flashes. My stomach drops.

As we approach the hangar, Commander Ren turns and stands from his chair and storms out of the pilot’s cabin. Captain GD-294 presses a few buttons, and the ship begins to land. He then exits the cockpit as well. I find myself still frozen in place. I can see troopers and pilots scurrying around on the floor beneath us. Towards the back right, I can see Resistance members firing against a group of stormtroopers. They eventually fall, but not without taking down a few of our men. The feet of the ship finally make contact with the slick black floor, and then it eases to a stop.

“Nurse!” the Captain calls for me.

I find myself back in my body and whip around, racing through the door and into the lobby of the Commander’s ship. The ramp has already descended, Commander Ren storming across the hangar. He whips his arm to the right and his lightsaber crackles to life. A few stormtroopers follow behind him, others run the opposite direction. Again, I am frozen.

“Nurse,” Captain GD-294 says again, more gently this time. I turn towards him. “The ship is crawling with Alliance members. You need to get to the medical bay and assist with any casualties.”

I swallow and nod, yanking my blaster from its holster. I hold my finger over the trigger. The Captain places a hand on my shoulder, then nods and trots down the ramp. He raises his rifle forward as he walks. Without thinking, I follow him. My legs feel separated from the rest of my body, and I can barely feel the floor beneath me. It feels numb, muffled.

I turn and make my way towards the elevator, quickly glancing to my left, right, and behind me. It appears to be clearing out; I hear less gunfire and troopers are dashing down various hallways. Captain GD-294 disappears down a corridor to my right. I finally reach the elevator and my finger jams down onto the button, calling the cart to me. I turn and raise my weapon, again scanning my entire surroundings for a sign of a Resistance member. My hair whips into my face, my breaths come in quick gasps. I notice that the elevator has never taken this long to arrive.

Finally, it beeps faintly behind me. I dart inside of it and press Floor 4 and the door close button rapidly. Just as the doors begin to move, a green blast slices through the gap and grazes my shoulder. I gasp, grabbing at the searing flesh. I can smell the burnt fabric and skin. I manage to catch a glimpse of the lanky Resistance member raising his weapon at me again before the door closes. I raise my weapon and fire a shot at him just before the metal doors meet. I hope it hit him.

I seethe through my teeth, bracing myself as the elevator lurches upward. My mind clouds with irritation, and I blow out a breath through my nose. Instead of panicking over the burn on my arm, I find myself fueled by it, as if the throbbing pain is channeling an anger and hatred through me. I don’t bother to tend to my wound, even though I have time as the cart crawls to the fourth floor.

When the elevator doors open, I hold out my blaster and walk quickly down the hall. When my arm raises, a pain jolts from the stretching of skin around my wound. I growl under my breath and quicken my pace. I turn left, then left again, and come into contact with no one. As I approach the medical bay, I can hear voices. Some are shouting commands, others are screaming in pain.

Outside the med bay doors, I can see troopers either gripping their injuries or assisting comrades who cannot move themselves. I weave through them and dash through the doors. Every single bed is occupied, and it appears that the nurses were forced to break out the extra cots from the back. There are troopers on these as well, and some even laying on the floor. The nurses bustle about, administering medicine and dressing wounds and hooking men up to IVs. The Finalizer’s doctor, Doctor Iyshaak, leans over a patient, trying to subdue him. Sweat gleams off of his dark forehead, and his eyes dart over the trooper who is writhing in pain beneath him.

I grab a pair of gloves and slip them on, whipping around and trying to find where I am most needed. The stormtroopers are trying to pool into the medical bay, but there is barely any room for them to enter. I decide to come to them, and I weave my way through the crowded room and back towards the door that leads out into the hall.

“Nurse!” I hear Syla’s familiar voice ripping through the moans and cries. I whip around. “Thank the stars,” she exclaims as she reaches me, grabbing onto my good arm. “The attack came out of nowhere. There’s so many people injured and I’m sure there’s even more outside. I was never prepared for something like this.”

“I know,” I reassure, but I take a few steps towards the door. “I’m going to help the men that are stuck outside. Just tell everyone to focus on the troopers in here and make sure everyone is stabilized.”

“I will,” Syla smiles grimly, then it turns into a full frown. “Nurse, your arm –”

I don’t give her time to scold me and instead scurry out into the hallway. I am immediately greeted by a trooper with his helmet off, blood gushing from a gash in his forehead. I rip off my backpack and tear through it, finding my dressings so I can begin treating his wounds. I find a sanitation wipe and clean it quickly, wiping the excess blood off of his face. As I begin to cauterize the cut, my right arm screams in protest. I growl under my breath again and ignore it, continuing to drag the laser across his forehead.

Once I am finished with this trooper, I move onto the next. I notice quickly that most of what I am dealing with is blaster wounds. I pull out clusters of all the equipment I will need and lay them out beside me. My current patient has a wound to the left of the base of his neck. A less injured trooper helps me steady him and get clear access as I treat him.

And then, the next. Three bullet wounds to the left arm. Next. Deep cut in right thigh. Next. Two puncture wounds to the chest. This one, I take inside for Dr. Iyshaak. My hands move independently from my body; I don’t have to think when I assess a wound, clean it, and treat it. Next. Since the nurses inside were able to focus on their current patients, a few filter outside to help me take care of the remaining troopers. Only five more stormtroopers are brought to the med bay while we are treating them, and I can’t help but to wonder if Commander Ren and GD-294 are responsible for cutting down the numbers.

Just as I am dressing the wound of the second to last patient, I see dark figures approaching from down the hall on my left. I glance up briefly to see that one of them is Commander Ren. His arm is slung over another masked, robed figure, whose legs are struggling to support their own body weight. He and his comrade come to a stop right beside me as I begin to cauterize the wound.

“Nurse.” His mechanical voice is as harsh and unrelenting as ever. “One of my Knights is injured. Handle it.”

“Gin!” I toss over my shoulder to one of the other nurses, “Please help this Knight!”

Gin nods and turns to approach the Commander and Knight, but she stops dead in her tracks when Commander Ren yells, “No!” I jump, nearly dropping the laser, and stare up at him. “I asked you, Nurse.”

“As the matron nurse of this bay, I’m delegating it to someone else,” I retort, peering up into his soulless mask. I see his fingers clench around the arm of his Knight. I can’t help but to feel a falter in my bravado; I remember his warning aboard his ship, slamming me into the wall and daring me to challenge him again. I swallow a lump in my throat and continue on, “I am in the middle of helping another patient. Gin is fully capable--”

“I understand that you’re the matron nurse of this bay.” The Commander’s voice is lifeless, flat, taunting. “As Commander of the entire First Order that you serve, I am telling you to treat my Knight.”

I glance over the Knight of Ren, who is clutching their abdomen tightly with one arm. I can see dark crimson blood staining the left half of their tunic. I keep my gaze on the Knight for a minute, then my eyes flick to Commander Ren. He peers down at me, breathing so heavily I can see his chest rising and falling. A tremble in my hands reminds me that I have a patient leaning into me, waiting for me to finish cauterizing his wound. I resume my work on him and say loudly, “Gin, take this Knight into the bay to see Dr. Iyshaak. I’ll take the heat if there’s an issue.”

I can see Gin tentatively walking towards the Knight out of my peripheral vision. Commander Ren hasn’t moved, it seems as if even his breathing stilled. By the time I finish the trooper I was working on, Gin’s hand is just about to wrap around the Knight’s arm. But just before she can reach them, she is thrown back against the cold metal wall of the ship.

I gasp loudly, standing and rushing over to where Gin lays coiled on the floor. She sobs, her eyes wide as saucers, her hand squeezing the fabric of her scrubs against her chest. She tries desperately to stand but can’t seem to find her footing. I link my arms with hers and pull her up; when she is finally on her own two feet, her palm covers her mouth as she stares at Commander Ren. “Hey,” I say, cradling the sides of her face and turning it towards me, “Go help the last trooper out here. I’ll take care of the Knight.”

She nods, blinking back her tears, and darts around and behind me to attend to the final stormtrooper. The sight of Commander Ren and his Knight sets me ablaze, and the rage that courses through my veins is almost enough to bring me to tears. My hands clench so tightly I can feel my nails pricking blood into my palm. I storm over to the Commander and grab the arm of the Knight, gently but firmly pulling him towards me. “Get out,” I say coldly, taking the Knight’s arm so they can lean their weight on me.

“What did you say?” the Commander eggs on, taking a step towards me.

The anger within me is more than enough to quench the fear of Commander Ren. I whip around, staring pointedly into his damn mask. “I said get out. I’m treating your Knight like you asked. Leave.”

Before he can respond or argue or throw me against a wall as well, I bring the Knight into the medical bay with me as quickly as my feet will allow. They are heavy, and I don’t want to move too fast as to upset their wound. The med bay door hisses open, and I call for the doctor. He rushes over to me and takes the Knight. I notice immediately that the nurses all seem calmer, taking their time with the patients, who are laying contentedly in beds or cots. I glance back out the corridor, expecting to see the Commander standing angrily, but he’s gone. No sign of him to the left or right. I release a breath that I didn’t know I was holding and join Dr. Iyshaak at table ten.

---

I was sent to my quarters from the medical bay shortly after the Knight was treated. Dr. Iyshaak said I needed to rest after my first field nurse mission, and I couldn’t help but to agree. I don’t think my body relaxed fully until I took a shower and the hot water forced my muscles to loosen.

I decide to attempt to clean the gash on my arm. Grabbing my soap, I run it roughly over the scab and allow it to break slightly. I seethe at the sting, then groan again when I place it under the water.

Turning off the water and yanking on my robe, I exit the shower and walk into my bedroom, my skin puckering against the cold air. I braid my hair quickly, then slip into my night clothes. My bed has never been so inviting. I rummage through my backpack and slap a bacta patch onto my arm before traipsing towards my bed.

I snuggle under the covers, but my body doesn’t feel tired. Instead, I lay wide awake, staring at the dark ceiling above me. It almost feels like I am coming down from a high. My mind plays over the events of the past 24 hours: my first mission, firing my blaster, rescuing the stormtrooper, being slammed against a wall, the attack on the Finalizer. My fingers find the patch on my arm and rub it absentmindedly. After his outburst on his own ship, I still can’t believe that Commander Ren let me get away with speaking out of turn to him again. He simply evaporated from the corridor like a puff of smoke.

I wonder what he told General Hux, or maybe even the Supreme Leader, about my performance as a field nurse. It was something I had never experienced before. And although it was terrifying, it was also thrilling. As much as I love being a matron nurse, now that I was able to accompany a First Order operation, I can’t help but find that job stale, sedentary.

My holopad dings softly from the small table in my room. My brow furrows and I stand, my feet padding across the cold floor. One arm snakes around my abdomen, the other slowly lifts the holopad.

Attn: Nurse M17-L33

Re: Briefing regarding field nurse assignment

Location: Floor 3, Room 4

Time: 0730

My breath catches in my throat. I stare at the screen until my eyes burn. Then finally, a tiny smile cracks on my face. I set an alarm and scurry back into bed, forcing my eyes shut until I finally drift off.

Chapter Text

My boots clank against the metal of the ramp to Commander Ren’s ship as I board it for the third time. My hair is pulled into a tight low bun, and it yanks against the back of my neck as I stare down at my feet. As always, I find myself at the back of the rows of stormtroopers entering the lobby before me.

We are on our way to an icy planet known as Akull. The data chip that Commander Ren was able to take from the base on Zslonoth contained coordinates for Resistance headquarters located on this planet. According to the information, this is a militia base and the epicenter of the Rebellion’s ships and war vehicles. Commander Ren intends to destroy it.

A new jumpsuit was waiting for me in my quarters after the briefing. Black and armored again, this one was a thick material clearly meant for freezing conditions. It had black fur lined gloves, boots, and a hood. By the time I put it on and headed down to the Commander’s ship, I had broken a sweat.

Just as before, the stormtroopers flood into the lobby, mostly sitting at the table. Some stand and talk, others retreat to the dormitory. Commander Ren allows this, disappearing into the pilot’s cabin. A few moments later, the ship powers to life.

I traipse to the right wall of the lobby and unclip my backpack, resting it gingerly on the ground. None of the stormtroopers make any move to approach or talk to me, and for that I’m thankful. Akull is not far; we should be there in a few hours time. There’s no point in trying to sleep, whether it be in the dormitory or the pilot’s cabin again.

Sighing, I pull my backpack towards me and rummage through it for the umpteenth time, rattling off in my head where everything is located. I’m not sure what to expect on this mission. General Hux made no indication of hearing anything about my previous mission to Zslonoth, and the Commander did not do so much as glance my way during the briefing. I assume that I will be sitting this one out on the ship again, but a small part of me hopes that is not the case.

I close my backpack and pull it to my side, then cross my arms, huffing out a breath. I lean my head back against the wall. The chilled metal feels good; the rest of my body is baking in this snowsuit. I close my eyes slowly, wanting to rest but not wanting to fall asleep. When I feel myself begin to drift off, I yank my eyes open and pull my head off the wall. Groaning, I rub my hands across my face.

I hear a door hiss open above the low chatter of the troopers. “Nurse.” I glance over to the right and see the Commander standing in the doorway of the cockpit, his mask boring into me. I open my mouth slightly, but no words come out. “Come in here,” he adds, then turns and disappears back into the room.

I sit there for a moment, my brain a bit foggy from my almost-nap. I finally rise, pushing myself off the ground with one hand and grabbing my backpack with the other. I pull one strap on my shoulder as I trudge toward the cockpit. The door slides open before me, and I enter the room just enough for it to close. The Commander is sitting in the pilot’s chair, turned towards the stars. His hands are on the controls, but they don’t appear to actually be doing anything. “Sit,” he quips, nudging his head towards the empty seat to the right of him.

I oblige, letting my backpack rest on the floor beneath the chair. I swallow a lump in my throat, placing my trembling hands in my lap. My latest interactions with Commander Ren have been anything but pleasant. I suck my lip in between my teeth.

For a minute, the Commander just stares into space. My head faces forward as well, but I try to look at him through my peripherals, to get some clue as to why he called me in here. When he finally speaks, I nearly jump out of my skin. “Do you know how to use that blaster?”

“What?” I ask instinctively, even though I comprehend his question. There were a few reasons I expected the Commander would want to talk to me, and that wasn’t one of them.

“The blaster you have hanging from your hip,” Commander Ren clarifies, agitation laced in his voice. “Do you know how to use it?”

Guilt pools through my chest, and I swallow another lump. “Not really,” I say flatly.

I hear a noise from Commander Ren’s mask, similar to a sigh. “I figured,” he says quietly, more to himself than to me. He pulls away from the controls to lean back in his chair, folding his arms. “Stay in the middle of the group, then. Don’t stray to the sides or back.”

At this, I turn towards him, my brow knotted. The Commander does not return my stare, keeping his gaze fixated on the stars. There is silence between us for a while, before the Commander shifts his position, swiveling in his chair so that his body is facing me. I lean back, fire spreading across my chest from his proximity. We’re so close, his knees almost graze mine. “Nurse,” he starts, head leaning down towards me. “If you accompany this mission, you have to listen to me. Your track record of obeying orders is extremely poor, and the fact that I even have to sit a field nurse down and reiterate the importance of obeying their Commander is insulting. I won’t be able to –” he stops, as if trying to choose better words. “You need to take care of yourself on this mission. Everyone else has a job to do, and none of those jobs is watching over the inexperienced field nurse. This operation will be your last if you do not heed me or if anyone or anything is jeopardized due to your insolence.”

My lips part, a breath blowing out slowly. Even though I’m looking into an oil-black mask, I can feel the intensity of the stare, how much he means the words that he’s saying. I don’t feel threatened by him, perhaps for the first time in my life. I nod, “Okay.”

Yes, Commander,” he corrects.

“Yes, Commander,” I repeat, ignoring the irritation that flared up in me at his correction.

He turns his body back towards the window of the ship, and he mans the controls again. “That is all,” he says quietly, “You are dismissed.”

My legs feel numb as I stand and strap my backpack on. My eyes find my feet, watching them dart out of the cockpit and back into the lobby with the stormtroopers. A few glance up at me, but most of them just continue about whatever they were doing.

I quickly find my place against the wall and settle back into it. My blaster feels heavy in the holster against my leg. My fingers run across the cool black metal, and I imagine myself pointing and firing it at Rebels. I’ve done it before, but always out of self defense. Something feels different about infiltrating their base, about being the aggressor. I remind myself that my job is to take care of the wounded troopers, but the Commander’s warning rings in my head: the inquiry into my experience with the blaster, the reiterance of following his every order.

I think back to Zslonoth, about how quickly Commander Ren was going to leave that stormtrooper who was just steps away from boarding his ship. I remember his words after I rescued him; that both stormtroopers and field nurses are expendable. This leaves me unsure of how to interpret the interaction I had with him just moments ago. I stare at the wall opposite me, my mind racing.

---

Even though the air on Akull is stagnant, it still slices my cheeks as the ramp to Commander Ren’s ship slowly descends. The ship landed on a plateau surrounded by icy, glittering mountains. I see nothing but the snow laying on the ground; no vegetation, no rocks, nothing. I pull my hood up over my head and can’t help but to feel conspicuous as my feet sink slowly into the snowy ground.

Remembering Commander Ren’s words, I force myself to move to the center of the pack. I notice the troopers around me drawing their weapons, and I do the same. Some of the troopers have rocket launchers strapped to their backs, while all of them have detonators hanging from their belts. The Resistance base is hidden in a series of mountains, and only accessible through a network of tunnels. The hangar where freighters and fighter jets would exit has thick doors carved from the mountain side of this planet, and our cannons would not be able to penetrate it. The only way to destroy it is from the inside.

The wind begins to pick up, and I use my left hand to pull my hood tighter against me. The Commander’s cowl whips violently behind him, his hood over his masked face as well. We walk for what feels like hours in the blistering cold. My jumpsuit keeps the wind from chilling my body, but my nose feels numb and I find myself sniffling as we trudge on through the icy wasteland.

Eventually, Commander Ren leads us to the side of a dark mountain. As I approach the craggy surface, I graze my fingers along it and realize it’s synthetic. I turn towards the Commander, but he has already ignited his lightsaber and tears through the rock as if it’s paper.

Commander Ren storms through the hole he created, his lightsaber swinging and crackling by his side. The stormtroopers swarm after him, and I can already hear blasters firing as they disappear into the mountain. I go to take a step, but falter, yanking my blaster out of the holster. I force the fear out of my mind, remembering the Commander’s instructions, and stomp into the Resistance base.

I enter just in time to see the troopers disappear down a hall to the left. The base smells musky, and the walls are a faded gray. Multicolored wires race across the ceiling, and the light fixtures swing from our intrusion. I turn and follow my comrades down the corridor, both hands on my blaster.

Commander Ren moves through the base like a disease. Every man or woman that comes into contact with him is immediately slaughtered. I have never seen such carnage; I have never seen life taken without hesitation, or a second thought. He is here to destroy and that is what he is doing. I find myself nervous to drift towards the back of the pack, but I don’t want to get too close to the Commander’s rage either.

The Commander continues his rampage, leading us deeper into the bowels of the base. The troopers are barely firing their weapons, as not much gets past Commander Ren. He jerks to the right, storming down another corridor, all of us turning to follow. Suddenly, I see a flash of red and heat sears past my left ear. I whip around to see two Resistance men charging towards us, one of their guns smoking. Shots fire from behind me as the stormtroopers retaliate. I instinctively walk backwards, pressing myself against the wall, blaster at my side. The firing weapons pierce my ears as the troopers pass me, three of them. The others, and our Commander, continue on.

My heart pounds in my chest, my eyes racing from the troopers to the Rebels. I feel a sweat bead sliding down my hairline, and loose hairs stick to my face and neck. I’m frozen in place, unable to do anything but watch.

One of the Rebels lands a shot on a trooper, and he drops to the ground. I can tell by the way his body lies that he is dead. Another shot makes contact, and this trooper stumbles, gripping his thigh. His blaster skids across the floor. I rush over to him, blinded by purpose, and rip my backpack off and sling it to my side. The remaining trooper steps in between us and our opponents, firing quickly and rapidly. One of the Rebels screams and falls to the ground.

The other Rebel fires, and the blast slams into the helmet of the trooper guarding us. He falls, a gurgled cry emulating through his mask. The injured stormtrooper reaches for his blaster, groaning loudly. His other hand continues to hold his thigh, and I can now see crimson blood sliding across his white armor.

I hear a blaster fire, and white hot pain sears across my chest. I scream, my hand flying up to cover the space under my left collarbone. The Resistance member fires again, landing on the stormtrooper’s chest, and I hear his agonized cry as he falls back against me. I stumble back, my hand catching my weight, sending pain shooting down my arm.

The Rebel raises his blaster again, and I finally counter the move. I shoot blindly, the blast ricocheting off the wall behind the Rebel. He laughs, and in that hesitation, I fire again. This time, I get his neck. The man drops his blaster, reaching for the wound, and I fire again. And again. And he falls to the ground and doesn’t stir.

I stick my blaster back into the holster and wrap my hands under the trooper’s arms. He moans loudly, seething in pain, unable to lift himself up at all. My arm and chest scream in protest as I try to raise him. We crumple to the ground. “Go,” he says faintly, his head rolling to the side.

I feel tears prick my eyes, and I shake my head. I try to lift him again, crying out against the fire that surges from my wound. When we fall yet again, I pull my backpack to me and rummage through it, my hands trembling. I place the sanitation wipes by my side and try to loosen the stormtrooper’s armor. “Stop,” he whispers, but I don’t listen. I manage to create enough space for my hands to slip into the suit, and I rip open the wipes. He gasps as I run them quickly over his wounds.

I throw the trash to the side and dive back into my bag for the bacta patches. “We don’t have time for much else,” I say quickly, my voice shaking. I press them onto the wounds on his thigh and chest. I feel the patches begin to cool under my touch as they adhere to his skin.

The trooper begins to relax, and I rummage through my bag to clean my wound. Just as I do, I hear a series of explosions and screams, the ground shaking beneath us and rubble falling from the ceiling. I throw my backpack on and stand, grabbing the arm the trooper and pulling him up with me. “We need to go,” I yell, just as another two explosions rock the base. He nods, and tries to take a step, but has to lean against the wall. I lift his arm over my shoulders, allowing him to press some of his weight onto me. My chest throbs sharply with each step we take.

“Which way…” I drift off, glancing behind us. “Which way is out?” I ask aloud. More tremors shake the earth beneath us.

The trooper doesn’t respond, his breathing labored. I glance behind us, then forward, choosing to travel the latter. We make our way down the hallway, stopping twice to regain our energy. We take a left, then a right. Sweat pours down my body, stinging the wound on my collarbone. A group of Rebels race down a hallway behind us, but they don’t see us and continue on.

My heart starts when I am able to hear wind whistling from the corridor to the right. I turn and there it is: the charred entrance our Commander created to the base. Another explosion, the strongest one I’ve felt yet, rattles us and we fall to our knees. A large chunk of rock slams to the ground behind us, just two feet back. I yank us quickly to our feet and trudge out of the base.

Smoke billows out from the mountain behind us, raising into the sky as far as I can see. The cool air feels good on my hot, strained body. I am barely able to lift my feet in the snow; the trooper feels heavier with each step I take. I glance up the trek to the ship, and my heart sinks into my stomach. I can’t even see the Commander’s ship. I return my eyes to my feet, and decide to focus on each individual step, and not the entire journey ahead. I take long, even breaths. The air trembles on my exhales, swirling in front of my face and then disappearing.

Another boom, and I see flaming debris raining down on either side of us. I try to quicken my pace, but it doesn’t increase by much. I find it harder to breathe in, the incline getting steeper. I can hear muffled shouts, and I turn to the trooper beside me, but his head stays down. I look up and am able to see the crest of the Commander’s ship, and relief washes over me.

An inaudible red flash slams into the ground next to us, followed by another. I turn slowly, weighed down by the man on my shoulders, and see a group of Resistance members chasing after us. They raise their weapons, more shots firing that I cannot hear. They scream to each other, their mouths agape and necks strained, but I can’t make out any words. Behind them lies the remains of their mountain base, nothing but a pile of rubble, and what structure survived is aflame and tumbling fast.

The Rebel closest to us raises her weapon, her eyes sparkling with rage. The red blast leaves her gun and I squeeze my eyes shut, bracing for impact. I feel the stormtrooper’s arm tighten around me. The blast heats my face, radiating but never striking. I open my eyes, and see the red charge suspended in front of me, crackling and pulsing, but not moving closer.

It’s Kylo Ren!”

My head whips around and I see him, arm extended and fingers strained. He charges past me as blast after blast is stopped alongside their predecessor. My eyes follow him, watch as he ignites his lightsaber, as the blasts go flying backwards in all directions, as he raises his weapon and strikes down the Rebel closest to him.

A pair of hands grip me and pull me forward. The stormtrooper grabs near my collarbone and I seethe, kneeling down in the snow. Another stormtrooper takes my comrade from me and helps him towards the Commander’s ship. The trooper sees my pain and readjusts his hands, simply placing one on my back and prodding me up the remainder of the snow bank. I ignore the chaos behind me as my hearing slowly returns to me. The screams of pain. The buzzing of the Commander’s blade. The desperate firing of blasters that is silenced one by one.

The door to the ship slides open. The stormtrooper brings me to the table and gingerly helps me down into a chair. I let my backpack slip off my back, trying to quell my beating heart and steady my breathing before beginning to dress my wound. I partially unzip my snowsuit, just enough to be able to reach in and clean my collarbone without revealing myself. The ship powers to life with a long whirring noise. Commander Ren enters the ship, his saber returned to its hilt. “Nurse,” he says curtly.

I glance up. Before I can respond, he adds, “Follow me.”

I oblige, keeping the wipe against my chest and grabbing my backpack with my free hand. I fall in line behind him as he trudges across the lobby and into his quarters. A lump forms in my throat. “Retire to the dormitory,” he barks over his shoulder, causing me to jump. “We are making a short stop before heading back to the Finalizer. You will remain on the ship and rest.”

The door to his quarters hisses open and he barges in. I follow quietly behind him. There’s a large black bed in the middle of the room, a small metal chest next to it, and two doors on the left. The Commander opens the one closest to me with a wave of his hand and pulls out a silver contraption. As he unfolds it, I realize it’s a makeshift bed. He places it the left corner, farthest away from his bed. “You don’t have to sleep in the pilot’s cabin,” he says simply as he clanks the cot down on the floor.

“I don’t mind it,” I say quietly, and keep standing just outside the entrance of the room. He doesn’t look at me as returns to the closet and retrieves a pillow and blanket. He tosses them onto the cot and turns to enter the door on the left. As he opens it, I can see it’s a washroom. He pauses in the doorway, but doesn’t look at me as he says, “Are you going to tend to your wound?”

I scurry to the cot and sit down on it, pulling out my supplies and finishing up my collarbone. Commander Ren disappears into the washroom. I feel my eyelids growing heavy as the adrenaline wears off, and I am suddenly aware of how fatigued and sore my body is. Once I’m done, I pull off my gloves, kick off my boots, and remove my holster, placing them near the foot of the cot. I want to keep my snowsuit on, but it’s just so hot and uncomfortable that I can’t help but to shrug it off. In nothing but my undershirt and shorts, I roll onto my side and curl under the blanket.

Commander Ren returns, and I don’t notice anything different about him. He pulls open the drawer in the chest and retrieves his holopad, sitting on the edge of the bed and flicking it open. I watch him for a moment, his gloved finger sliding across the screen, before he says, “Go to sleep.”

“Why am I in here?” I ask him, surprised by my own bravado.

“Because you feel uncomfortable in the dormitory.”

“And that matters?”

“How about you just be grateful instead of insolent?” he snaps, mask whipping around at me.

I close my eyes, turning over on the cot to face the wall. I pull the covers tighter around me, suddenly feeling exposed and vulnerable in the presence of the Commander. As if he read my mind, he calls out, “You have nothing to fear in here. I do not have any interest in you.”

I blow out a breath through my nose, ignoring the prick of irritation that his comment caused me. I force my eyes closed, shifting my position again, and finally settle. After a few minutes, I open my eyes and say aloud, “Are you going to sleep in that mask?”

“I’ll take it off when you’re asleep,” he says blandly.

“How will you know?”

“I’ll know.”

For some reason, perhaps delirium from exhaustion, I decide to make a joke. “Are you sure it isn’t attached to you?”

A sharp “go to bed” is the only response I get from him and the last thing I remember before drifting off.

Chapter Text

It feels like there’s a rock in my shoulder where the blaster hit me. I roll my arms back, cracking my neck, and resume my work on the stormtrooper before me. He seethes as I gently run a salve over his charred skin, starting at the top of his shoulder and running down to the back of his hand.

I slept so heavily last night, I almost missed my alarm, and even now I feel as if I barely slept an hour. When my eyes opened again in the Commander’s quarters, we were docking at the Finalizer, and he was nowhere to be found. I’m not sure where we stopped on the way back, and when I descended the ramp, I immediately went to my room and slept the remainder of the night. My feet throbbed sharply with every step I took, and my back and arm muscles ached from dragging the injured stormtrooper back to the ship.

Now, I’m having a hard time keeping my eyes open. I pull off my gloves and stand, grabbing the holopad above the table to send a report. Grabbing a new set of gloves, I head towards the only other patient in the med bay. When I finish cauterizing his wound at table thirteen, I take a seat in the back office and rub my eyes. Groaning, I stare up at the ceiling. Thankfully, it’s a quiet day on the Finalizer. It’s the first quiet day I’ve seen since I arrived.

Before me are a set of black cabinets, stocked full of topical and oral medicines. To my right, in a locked refrigerator, are IV medicines, such as anesthesia and pain medication. Behind me, in a separate set of black cabinets, are dry supplies and a sink. The machines for testing samples sit on the counter behind me as well. Just to my left is Dr. Iyshaak’s desk, where he is currently absent. He has taken the day off since it’s so slow, leaving me in charge unless there’s a true emergency. Gin and Syla are the only nurses alongside me today.

As if on cue, Syla pokes her head into the office. She smiles sympathetically. “Tired?”

“Yes,” I moan, standing and rubbing my temples, following her back into the medical bay. No new patients since I left. Nothing to do. Gin sits in the corner of the bay, flicking through her holopad.

“How is your shoulder?” Syla asks.

I roll my shoulder back absentmindedly at the mention of it’s injury. “Not great,” I say honestly, laughing. “A lot worse than the one I got before.”

Syla nods, and I can tell that she wants to ask me what happened, but doesn’t want to be intrusive. I give her a small grin and start, “I was shot at by a Resistance member while I was trying to help an injured stormtrooper.”

Syla’s eyes widen, mouth dropping open. “By yourself? Did you fight them off?”

“Yes, actually.” My good mood evaporates when I think of the troopers that died trying to protect me and their comrade. I wince when I think of their lifeless bodies crumpling to the floor, arms and legs contorted, all feeling gone from the body. “And then I had to help him walk out of the base. All I had time to do was slap bacta patches on his injuries and I couldn’t treat myself. The rest of the squadron had continued on and placed detonators all throughout the Resistance hangar, and it was starting to blow. We had to get out of there immediately.”

Syla turns so she is facing straight ahead, as if trying to picture the story in her mind. I’m silent for a minute, staring ahead as well. I watch as two stormtroopers walk towards the med bay doors from the left, but they continue on past it. “And I’m assuming you made it back okay?” she asks finally, still not looking at me.

“We did, thanks to Commander Ren,” I respond. Excitement courses through me as I remember. “I was almost back to the ship, me and the injured trooper. A group of Rebels came up from behind and starting shooting at us. I could barely even hear it because I was just outside of the base when the detonators went off. They were so close, and there were so many of them…” I drift off, staring blankly. “And he just, appeared. He stopped the blasts in mid air.” Syla’s eyes widen. “And he walked past us and… ended it. And we made it back.”

Syla doesn’t say anything, but her eyes still hold the disbelief at what I’m telling her. Finally, she shakes her head. “That’s… weird.”

“What’s weird?”

“I mean,” she pauses, chewing her lip. “I know I haven’t been here long, but I’ve heard the stories of Kylo Ren. We all have.” She glances toward the door, as if saying his name will summon him in an angry rage. “He doesn’t seem like the type to perform a search and rescue.”

My heart stills, contemplating the words. “It wasn’t like that,” I say, more to myself than to her. “We were almost to the ship. To leave us would be cruel.” But then I remember the stormtrooper running for his life on Zslonoth. How Commander Ren ordered the door shut. How he stood in the rampway and watched it close, the trooper shot in the back and laying in the dirt. How he then slammed me against the wall and threatened me for doing my job.

But he also let me sleep in his quarters. He took me into the pilot’s cabin and asked me if I knew how to use my blaster. Gave me advice. He held the ramp open when I jumped out to rescue a stormtrooper. And he stopped a blast from striking me, seconds before impact. Perhaps there is a part of him that is fair, a part that wants his team to succeed, a part of him that potentially cares?

“That’s true,” Syla raises her eyebrows, breaking my train of thought. “Plus I hear that he enjoys the slaughter, whether it’s the Resistance or his own men. Maybe he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a larger headcount.”

“Maybe, Syla,” I say on a sigh, running my hands over my knees. This causes the knot in my shoulder to ache. For a reason I can’t pinpoint, that explanation irritates me.

“Regardless,” Syla walks toward the doors, tossing over her shoulder, “I’m glad you’re okay. When do you go out again?”

“I’m not sure. I haven’t heard anything,” I call after her as she disappears out of the medical bay exit. “Where are you going?”

“Food,” she says simply, not even bothering to turn around. I groan and glance at Gin, who rolls her eyes.

The next few hours pass without incident. A technician came in to get checked out after accidentally zapping himself, and a general requested to speak with Dr. Iyshaak, only to be informed that he was in his quarters. I find myself back in the office, typing up quick reports of the patients that came in and sending them off to the doctor. I also send him an inventory report and let him know what medicines I used today. As the last document sends, I lean back in his chair and place my holopad on his desk. The excitement of two days ago, paired with the lack of patients, is making today drag on slowly.

I check my watch, scowling at the fact that it only took fifteen minutes for me to create the reports. I close my eyes, and find myself slipping into a light sleep. I weave in and out of dreams, but I keep coming back to a beautiful city in a lush, jungle planet. I can see a fountain, lights stringing from the buildings around it, and can hear children laughing.

A soft knock on the door makes me jump out of my skin. Eyes bulging, I look to see Gin grinning at me. “Nurse, there’s someone here to see you.”

I nod, sitting up. My hands instinctively shoot to my bun, making sure I look presentable. “Have you seen Syla?” I ask before she turns to leave.

“I haven’t,” Gin frowns. “She knows we only get an hour break.”

“I know she does,” I confirm, straightening the holopad in front of me in an attempt to look busy. Gin slips out of the doorway and is replaced by a stormtrooper. I glance up at them, knotting my brow. The trooper enters the room slightly, then reaches up and removes their helmet. My eyes are met with the soft blue ones of the man who needed a commlink removed from his ear. My lips part slightly, staring up at him expectantly. I try desperately to remember his call number, but it escapes me.

“Hi,” he says softly.

“Hello,” I nod.

He steps closer to me, placing his helmet on the desk. I notice that his gait is rigid and uneven, probably getting used to his prosthetic. I instinctively roll my chair away from him. “I’m not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed when I didn’t see you in the recovery room.” He smiles at me. “I thought we had a date?”

My stomach turns into knots, and a sickening feeling runs up my spine. I glance to the left, not wanting to look directly at him. “I had missions. I work as a field nurse as well.” I finally meet his eyes again. “And, you know, the attack on the ship took up some time as well.”

He chuckles; he must think I’m joking with him. “Ah yes, I forgot about that.”

He doesn’t say anything else, fingering his helmet that is still sitting on Dr. Iyshaak’s desk. I clear my throat and utter a weak, “What can I do for you?”

“I was going to ask if you’re doing anything tomorrow night? If maybe you wanted to meet at the cantina for a drink or two?”

“Is that allowed?”

“Technically, no.” He shrugs his shoulders. “But as long as you don’t get belligerent, there aren’t any repercussions.” He laughs at himself, and I manage a small smile. “What do you say?”

“I’m not really…” I shake my head, again looking to the side and not at him. I’m not sure why this is making me so uneasy. Perhaps because I’ve never been in a situation remotely close to this. “I don’t…” I drift off again, wanting to say no but unable to formulate a good reason other than I don’t want to.

“Come on, it’ll be fun. Just one drink.”

“I…” I sigh, resting my head on my hand.

“Tell you what, I can tell that you’re nervous.” I glance at him, irritation igniting in my chest. I try not to let my eyes lower into a glare. “I’m going to the cantina tomorrow night, and it would be a pleasure if you showed up.”

“Alright,” I say, standing up. I walk towards him, forcing him to grab his helmet and exit the office so that I can as well. “I need to straighten up in here before the night shift comes in.” I give the faint excuse and close the office door, turning to the left so I can organize some supplies sitting on the closest table.

“Sounds good, I really hope to see you there.” He grins at me again, and it takes everything in my power to return it. He stuffs his helmet back on and trudges out of the medical bay, nodding to Gin who waves as he departs. I continue stacking the needles and syringes, pulling out a drawer and sticking them inside.

Gin saunters over to me, her eyebrows raised. “What was that about?”

I scoff. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” I slam the drawer closed.

“You know, it probably isn’t wise to get involved with a stormtrooper,” she frowns. “Or a general. Or a technician. Or anyone on board this ship. I’ve never been told otherwise but I just have a gut feeling that it isn’t approved of.”

“As do I,” I say as I fluff the pillow and straighten the blanket on the table, then briskly walk to the next one.

Gin follows my lead and starts on the other side of the medical bay, cleaning up around table one. “I didn’t realize that when I chose to be a nurse for the First Order, that I was also choosing to die as a virgin.” She laughs and I glance up at her, giggling as well. My mind drifts to my first days in the infirmary of the Supremacy, and I wonder, if being born outside of the Order, if I would still choose this life. If I would still have the skill and love for helping others medically that I do now. If I would walk away from whatever family I had to have my current relationships with Dr. Craine, Loemi, and now Gin.

We continue on until the medical bay looks spotless, meeting each other in the middle. Gin grabs the broom to do a quick sweep and I traipse back to the office to make sure everything is in order. I notice my holopad is lit up, indicating a message. My heart jumps and I walk over to it, opening it and scanning it quickly. I suppress a smile and close the message.

---

The next morning, I find myself sitting in the same briefing room as the one from my original mission. I take a seat, this one closer to General Hux, and fold my arms across my chest. The room feels chillier than normal, and I rub my hands over my arms. General Hux sits at the head of the table as usual, twirling a writing instrument with his finger. Three more generals, and another stormtrooper captain, are sitting at the table as well. The captain nods at me, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s GD-294. I am unable to see his number from my seat.

When Commander Ren arrives, he slumps down into a chair, leaning back and crossing his arms. His mask and clothes seem darker than normal, an even more opaque shade of black. I glance down at him and his mask turns to me. Without thinking, I immediately whip back to look at General Hux.

“Good morning,” he says with energy but without emotion. “I know it seems like we have been having a good amount of outings the past couple of days, but things are moving quickly, and we must keep ahead. When destroying the base on Akull, our fleet was able to pick up distress calls made out to a nearby planet. Unfortunately, we did not get a response, but our unmarked ships were able to scout the surface, and we found a few structures worth checking out.” He flicks the holocron on in the middle of the table, revealing a slow moving blue planet. “It is mostly aquatic, with few islands. Only one was found to contain buildings.”

“General,” the Captain starts, and I recognize the voice as belonging to GD-294. “It was my understanding that the operation is set for us to depart tomorrow morning. I am wondering how wise the choice is, considering this planet potentially received distress calls from their neighbor just two days ago. They must be on high alert.”

“Potentially,” General Hux repeats, “but the rumors of highly valuable Resistance intelligence on an aquatic planet are too vast to be ignored. A few interrogations over the past months have hinted at its existence. We cannot allow them any time to relocate or improve their defenses.”

“What is the plan, exactly?” asks one of the generals.

“Infiltration. The sad truth is that we don’t know what to expect. Everyone assigned to the mission will be given an emergency lethal injection in the event of capture or worse.”

My blood freezes in my veins, and I can feel my face pale. The absolute importance and gravity of this operation sits above the room like dark cloud, slowly descending. The previous missions, that were so intimidating to me, seem like nothing now. My eyes find Captain GD-294, then Commander Ren. I wish desperately that they did not wear helmets, so I could see their faces and gauge if they are as nervous as I am. I know that they probably aren’t.

“On that note,” Commander Ren’s mechanical voice echoes in the quiet room, “given the dire stakes of this mission, I would like to request an alternate field nurse or none at all.”

Heat spreads to my cheeks and my eyes widen, whipping around so my body faces the Commander. I feel my mouth drop open slightly. Commander Ren does not return my gaze, instead keeping his focus on General Hux.

“Everyone in this room was specifically chosen based on merit and experience, Ren.” The General’s response is sharp and quick. “Although I might add that we only have one commander.”

The other generals and Captain GD-294 freeze at General Hux’s insult. Commander Ren, however, is unfazed. “I find that hard to believe, General. M17-L33 has been on two missions and has been nothing but a nuisance on both of them.”

“Perhaps your opinion would hold more weight if you bothered to write reports after your operations, Commander. Both GD-294 and HF-844 gave this nurse nothing but praise. I believe even the words ‘asset’ and ‘heroic’ were used.”

Commander Ren scoffs. “If you insist on me being accompanied by a field nurse, I would prefer another be considered and assigned.”

General Hux leans forward, hands pressed against the table, glaring at the Commander. “And who would you elect as your field nurse, Commander, if you could have it your way?”

“Any other in the myriad of ones we have available.”

I feel tears sting my eyes, and it takes everything in my power to keep them from spilling over. Even though he is the source of my pain, I can’t tear my eyes away from the Commander. I feel my hands shaking in my lap. General Hux dismisses the Commander’s request and continues on with the briefing, but his words are muffled and distant.

Disgusting. Creature. Vile. Untrustworthy. Selfish. The words keep flashing through my mind as I stare down Commander Ren. The Commander of the First Order that only cares about himself, his wishes, his life. The one time he showed me kindness, humanity, by letting me sleep in his quarters, was just his way of babysitting his ‘nuisance.’ He only told me to stay in the middle of the pack so he wouldn’t have to be responsible for me. The memories and feelings attached to them are dashed into a million pieces. I resolve in my mind that Commander Ren only wanted to increase his body count on Akull and nothing more, and it was naïve of me to think otherwise.

The Commander’s mask slowly turns to me, and I feel as though he is staring through my eyes and into my mind, even though I can’t see his face. My eyebrows knot, and I feel the hot angry tears pool in my eyes. I bite my lip to prevent them from escaping. He holds my gaze for a few moments, then immediately stands, sliding his chair violently to the side and storming out of the room. The door hisses with his departure, and my eyes stay locked on it.

The briefing ends. Everyone stands slowly, and one general stays to talk to General Hux. I take a deep breath and rise as well, walking briskly towards the exit. As I enter the hallway, a warm glove claps onto my good shoulder. I turn to see it’s Captain GD-294. I manage a smile before turning on my heel and returning to my quarters.

Chapter Text

The next morning, I zip my jumpsuit up harshly and yank on my gloves. I stomp into my boots and throw on my backpack and holster. I study myself in my mirror, making sure I look immaculate, before heading downstairs to Commander Ren’s ship. This is the mission where I need to prove myself as a capable field nurse. Regardless of what the reports on me say, I can’t help but to feel that the Commander’s request for a different nurse planted a seed of doubt in everyone’s head. Even though General Hux defended my remarks, my actions need to defend them even more.

I walk briskly through the hall towards the elevator with my head held high. As stormtroopers and others pass me by, I give them a curt nod. I take a deep breath and blow it out slowly, stepping into the elevator and pressing the downward button. My eyes follow the blinking dot as it slowly descends to the lower floor.

When I enter the hangar, I see General Hux speaking to Captain GD-294. Arms crossed behind his back, he nods and dismisses the Captain, who turns and boards Commander Ren’s ship. He swivels to walk away and his eyes catch mine, a small grin cracking his face. “Nurse.”

“General,” I smile back, giving him a quick bow.

“Please do not take Commander Ren’s request into too much thought. Like I said before, you were given high remarks on the reports I read. I expect a successful mission.” He turns to stand side by side with me, instead of towering over me like he did in the past. This, along with his praise of my performance, lifts my spirits considerably.

“I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had so far,” I acknowledge. Pausing, a thought presents itself in my head, and my lips part slightly before I add, “Are there any other missions that need field nurses, besides Commander Ren’s?”

This causes General Hux to chuckle. “Not that I can think of, but I will look into it for you. I know how indescribably frustrating he can be.”

I hear the Commander’s ship begin to power on, so I tighten the straps of my backpack and nod to the General before gliding up the ramp. There are not as many stormtroopers on this mission as my past ones; I can count them on one hand. They are all sitting around the small table in the lobby. I trudge to the wall and lean against it, bracing myself as the ship takes off and exits the hangar.

Once we are a good distance away from the Finalizer, Commander Ren and Captain GD-294 exit the cockpit and stand just outside of its entrance. The Commander goes over the basics of the mission, explaining that no life was detected when their surveillance droid scanned the isles throughout the night. Since it was unable to enter the actual structures, he does not know what to expect and we need to be ready for anything. Hopefully, he adds, the base was abandoned in a hurry after receiving the calls from Akull, and we can quickly and easily locate and extract anything of value.

His harsh, mechanical voice makes me grate my teeth. I find myself unable to look at him without anger seeping into my blood, so instead I stare at the floor. My right hand absentmindedly fingers the small glass oval sitting in a slit on my wrist. In it, activated by pressing firmly for ten seconds, is a lethal injection that would end my life quickly and painlessly. My stomach churns when I think about being in a situation where suicide would be preferable to whatever I was about to experience.

When the Commander dismisses the troopers, they return to their chatter around the table. I push myself off the wall and trudge towards the dormitory. Commander Ren remains in the doorway of the cockpit as I pass. I do not look at him, but I can feel his eyes on me.

I turn to the closest bunk on the right and throw my backpack up, climbing behind it. I settle myself into the pillow and cross my arms. Thankfully, no one follows me into the room. But it wouldn’t have mattered if they did. Lounging in the cockpit, or Commander Ren’s quarters, was not an option to me anymore.

---

I’m awoken to the unmistakable sound of Commander Ren’s ship beginning to descend. I scold myself for falling asleep, rubbing the drowsiness out of my eyes harshly. My ankles sting when I push myself off the bed and onto the floor, my body not awake enough to fully brace itself.

The ramp is already descending when I exit the dormitory. The troopers are lined up, Captain GD-294 leading them. Commander Ren stands to the left, but when the ramp touches the sand, he quickly exits before anyone else can even take a step. As always, I am taking up the rear. I adjust my backpack and holster as I fall in line behind the stormtroopers.

The second I exit the ship, the heat and humidity envelope my body like a wet rag. I take a deep breath, already feeling labored from the droplets that suspend in the air. I feel sweat pricking my palms and the crown of my hair. The sand beneath my feet makes them drag underneath me. Although I cannot see the ocean, I can hear it. My view is shrouded by tall, thin trees with extremely large leaves dangling down and almost grazing the ground.

Ahead of us lies stone ruins, plants clinging to the sides and small furry creatures darting in and out. There is no door, just a fissure that races up the left side of the structure. Commander Ren shimmies inside, lightsaber in hand. The stormtroopers and I follow suit.

The air inside the ruins is muggy and still, the walls a dusty brown. I scrunch my nose. The first room appears to have been cleared out. There are shapes on the floor clear of dirt, where machines or items were removed, and it appears to have been done recently.

The troopers draw their weapons, so I pull mine out as well. The Commander whips around a corner to the left, walking through quickly and returning to the group. He turns and heads down another hallway. We follow. I try to place myself at the center, pacing ahead of two stormtroopers.

The hallway leads us to a narrow, stone staircase. Commander Ren ignites his saber, and the troopers flick on the lights on their blasters. I look at my own, trying to figure out if I have a light on mine as well. I run my fingers across both sides of the barrel before one of the troopers behind me reaches across and presses the button on the left handle. I smile sheepishly back at him.

At the bottom of the stairs, we reach another hallway. Here, the air feels cooler, but still stagnant. There are faint footprints across the floor, and I feel an uneasiness creep up my spine. Sweat makes my blaster feel slick in my hands; I juggle it between them as I wipe the palms of my gloves on my suit.

Commander Ren trudges forward, making no attempt to be quiet or subtle. He passes a door on the left so quickly that I am not sure if he even sees it. I stop next to it, where I can see that it is opened by a dusty, sort-of latch. The two troopers behind me pass, but stop, turning to look at the door as well. I glance over them to see the Commander continue on, not skipping a beat, as the hallway bends to the right.

Before I lose my nerve, I yank open the latch, having to use much more force than I thought I would. I press my shoulder against the wood and grit my teeth as I push open the door as wide as I can. To my surprise, the two troopers stay behind with me, and the closest one puts his hand on the door and slides it open the rest of the way.

We raise our weapons and our flashlights scan the room. The floor indicates that objects were hastily removed from in here, just as they were upstairs. Nothing but a few strips of wire remain. Huffing a breath, I blow a strand of hair out of my face and enter. Towards the back of the room, I am able to make out a bend in the shadow, which leads me to a narrow passage. I start towards it, the stormtroopers trailing behind.

Being the leader and choosing where we go feels like dead weight on my shoulders. I suddenly realize that I am entirely responsible for the two lives behind me. If something goes wrong, I’ll have no one to blame but myself. We abandoned the group. I glance behind me, looking in vain for Commander Ren; I know he is long gone.

When we round the bend, I can see a door down the hallway that has a faint blue light coming from the cracks in it. My heart rises into my throat. I adjust my grip on my blaster. With my eyes locked onto the door, the stormtroopers steps echoing behind me seem loud and conspicuous, but I’m too afraid to look away from the door to say anything to them. When we reach it, I try to control the trembling of my hand as my fingers grip the rusty latch.

I wince as the bottom of the door scrapes across the floor. One of the stormtroopers enters the room quickly, brushing past me. “Clear!” his mechanical voice calls back to us.

I lower my blaster and follow him into the room, trailed by the final trooper. I can see the familiar dust marks and skids from the removal of items, but there are two computers that remain in the far corner. One of them is turned on, the monitor displaying a blue login screen. The stormtrooper approaches it, pressing a few of the keys and buttons. The other leans over him, watching.

After a few failed attempts, the trooper pulls out a small contraption and plugs it into the base of the machine. He fiddles with it, pressing a few buttons and glancing between it and the screen. I turn and face the door we entered, my hands tight on my blaster.

“Bingo.” The trooper stands back as codes begin to scrawl across the screen. He turns to me. “This shouldn’t take long. I’m downloading all of the information this data chip can hold.” He nods his head. “Good call, Nurse.”

I smile at him, focusing my attention back to the door. I can’t help but to swell up with pride. Finally, I feel like a true asset to the squadron instead of a nuisance that needs to be watched over. The harsh words of Commander Ren find themselves in my mind again. Maybe, when I return with new Resistance intelligence and he has nothing to show for himself, I’ll be given the respect I deserve.

I hear a faint banging sound, estimating it to be from the hallway where we lost the Commander. I freeze, eyes glued to the inky blackness ahead of me, the light on my blaster unable to reach the next wall. My mind formulates faces and shapes in the darkness that disappear when I blink. Flashes of footprints on the ground, wires left behind, and the computer’s monitor being on send chills down my spine.

I turn back to the stormtroopers, who are both still staring at the screen, the blue light reflected in the visors of their helmets. “We need to go,” I say quickly, my voice quivering. The sense of uneasiness within me intensifies. “We need to get back to the others. How much longer?”

“It’s finishing up,” one of the stormtroopers nods, “Why? Do you hear something?”

“I did, once,” I admit, glancing back at the door again. Still nothing. “Hopefully it was Commander Ren or someone from our squadron. We shouldn’t have separated ourselves from them--”

My words are cut off by a bright red flash shooting across my shoulder and sparking into the chest of the stormtrooper. He yelps and falls, clawing at his chest. I whip around, eyes wide, and come face to face with two Rebel men.

I quickly attempt to raise my blaster, but it is knocked immediately out of my hand and skids across the floor. The Rebel closest to me wraps an arm around my neck, pulling my body against his. He presses the hot barrel of his gun against my temple. My hands cling to his arm, desperately trying to loosen his grip. The pressure against my throat makes it difficult to breathe.

The remaining stormtrooper fires his weapon, grazing the other Resistance member’s arm. He growls and shoots back, missing and then landing one right in the stomach. He groans and drops his weapon, the man rushing forward to kick it across the room. He points his blaster at the trooper, who raises his hands in defeat.

“What do we have here?” the man holding me asks, his breath rancid against my cheek. I close my eyes and grit my teeth. His body smells as if he hasn’t bathed in days; perhaps they were hiding in the ruins, refusing to go upstairs or use any plumbing or electricity so the surveillance droid wouldn’t find them. My heart sinks when I think of my own stupidity, of leaving my literal Commander in a brazen attempt at doing something besides healing wounds. Shame spreads across my chest when I glance at the lifeless trooper by the computer.

“First Order drones,” the other man answers, laughing. “I guess Akull wasn’t enough, Jarrod. I guess destroying our base and murdering hundreds of innocents wasn’t enough for them.”

“Resistance scum,” the stormtrooper spits, and the Rebel presses his gun into the trooper’s chest.

“Watch your fucking mouth,” he warns.

“This one’s pretty.” The Resistance member holding me moans under his breath, running his tongue across my neck. Bile rises in my throat and I gasp, desperately trying to swallow it back down. “Maybe we should take her with us.”

“Too risky,” the man glances towards me, keeping his gun pointed at the trooper. “Besides, she’s just a medic. She won’t have any useful information we could take back.”

The Rebel approaches me, the other tightening his grip on my throat. I grunt, trying again to pull his arm away. Keeping his blaster pointed at the trooper, he unclips a detonator from his belt and holds it at my eye level. “Do you know what this is?” he asks, lips curling into a snark. I glare at him, eyebrows knotted. “Of course you do. It’s what your Order used to destroy Akull, to murder us. To murder my sister.” For the briefest moment, I see vulnerability in his eyes, quickly replaced by anger and defiance. He turns deftly and smacks the detonator against the computer, pressing the button. It blinks and beeps slowly. “You have five minutes to live,” he says gravely, lips quivering. “Five minutes to reflect on your life and what an absolute piece of shit you are for serving Snoke.”

He shoots at the ground near the stormtrooper’s feet, who jumps back in alarm. “Get in the closet.” He gestures towards a small door in the left corner of the room. The trooper looks back at him, so the Rebel shoots again. “Go!”

The trooper saunters towards the door, his arm wrapped around his injured abdomen, and the Rebel stays directly behind him. The other drags me to the door as well. The trooper opens the door and reveals a small space, shelves on every wall, filled with wires, metal pieces, discs, spare gun parts. Once the stormtrooper enters, I am thrown in behind him, my palms and knees slamming onto the ground. I shriek in pain, and I can feel hot blood seeping through my jumpsuit.

The door is slammed behind us and locked. I hear something smack against the handle, knocking it off. I stand quickly, my knees screaming in protest, and jiggle the latch. Nothing.

“Are there more of you?” one of the men calls through the door. I ignore him, anger coursing through my veins, and shake the handle, trying desperately to unlock it. I feel tears prick my eyes. “It doesn’t matter,” he continues when I don’t respond, “this place will collapse in minutes.”

“No!” I shout, grabbing a metal bar from a shelf and hitting the door latch. It dents, but refuses to unlock. I hit it a few more times, adrenaline pumping strength into my arms. But the doorknob does not budge.

I stand back, my breathing shallow and rapid. All I can hear is the faint beeping of the detonator. I whip around to the stormtrooper, who is slumped against the back wall. He removed his helmet, revealing a youthful face, tears streaking down his ruddy cheeks. He must be fresh out of the program. His arm is still draped across his stomach. “Hey,” I say softly, and he glances up. “Help me get this door open. We need to get out of here.”

“We’re not getting out,” he spits, throwing his helmet to the side.

“Please,” I breathe, one of my own tears spilling over. “Just try. Come on.”

He ignores me, staring blankly at the floor for a few moments. Suddenly, he reaches into his sleeve, revealing the lethal injection oval. He presses down onto it, and after ten seconds, the needle pops out. “No,” I say quietly, fear gripping my heart. “Don’t. Just help me. Please, come on.” I pull off my backpack and open it, rummaging through for my numbing cream. “I can help you, just give me a second.”

But again, he doesn’t listen. Instead, he jams the needle into his side. I scream, running to him, but the moment the pink liquid enters his veins, he is done. The trooper’s chest falls forward, oval clattering against the floor. I kneel down and hold his face up to mine, but there is no response. I tap against his eyes and I get nothing. He’s dead.

Fuck!” I pull my hair, tears spilling over my cheeks. I can still hear the beeping of the detonator, and I’m not sure how long it’s been. My time must almost be up.

I was so close. I was so close to proving myself, to a successful mission, to showing Commander Ren that I’m not a nuisance. That I’m an asset to the Order. That I’m a worthy field nurse. I scream again, grabbing another hunk of metal from a shelf and throwing it onto the ground. My hand claps against my mouth and I close my eyes, a shuddering breath gripping my body.

The object in my sleeve suddenly feels very heavy. My fingers find the oval shape against my wrist, and before I know what I’m doing, I pull it out. The dim light above slides against the clear glass, and I press firmly for ten seconds. As promised, the needle reveals itself, a tiny dab of pink liquid on the tip. I look at it, my heart pounding in rhythm with the beeping of the detonator, and I remove my glove and pull back the material of my jumpsuit. My eyes find the vein snaking up the skin of my wrist and disappearing into my hand.

I make a fist, and my vein bulges out a bit further. I position the needle against it. I take a deep breath, wondering if attempting to survive the blast is smarter than ending my life now. The beeping quickens.

I take a deep breath, trying to quell my mind and accept what is going to happen to me. My eyes find the stormtrooper in the corner, and I think of the one just outside the door, and my mind is made up. I don’t deserve to live. I did this.

But just as the needle is about to break my skin, the oval is ripped violently from my hands, shattering against the wall behind the stormtrooper, glass raining down onto his lifeless form.

Chapter Text

My eyes follow the glass as it slides down the lifeless form of the stormtrooper slumped in the corner of the storage room. My breath catches in my throat, glancing back at my now empty hand. Before I can process what’s going on, a loud humming noise startles me out of my thoughts.

I yelp and jump back as Commander Ren’s lightsaber pierces through the stone door. I watch as it eats away at the material, crumbling and revealing the Commander himself just outside of the closet. He reaches a hand out to me, but I am rooted to the spot.

“Let’s go!” he orders, turning to head towards the exit. I follow him, glancing back at the fallen troopers, my heart stinging. He reaches for my blaster, calling it to him with his mind, then hands it to me. The beeping of the detonator quickens again, almost to a single long screech. My eyes find it, and then the data chip sticking out of the computer. Before I can second guess myself, I charge towards the blue screen, reaching out for the chip.

No!

I am pulled back by a strong, invisible force, lacing my body like vines and ripping me away from the chip just before I reach it. “Ren!” I scream, but I am powerless against his abilities. “Wait, there’s--”

A gloved hand snakes around my arm as I reach him, my knees shaking as I brace my return to the ground. He storms off, dragging me behind him, and I turn and hurry my steps to keep up with him. We race down the halls, and his cowl whips behind him as he cuts the corners expertly in the inky darkness. The first sign of light envelopes the staircase, and just as we reach it, the first explosion hits.

I stumble and my voice catches in my throat, and Commander Ren’s grip on my arm tightens. A crack races up the stairs and I hesitate, lurching to a stop at the foot of the first step. I look back, and I see the debris settling, smoke billowing out from the blackened hallway. Just then, the second erupts, from farther down the hall, lighting it up momentarily as even more shrapnel flies towards us; the ceiling begins to cave.

Commander Ren pulls me up the stairs, the rock loose under my feet. We reach the top and immediately I am overwhelmed by the humidity and heat of the planet again. Most of the ruins have completely crumbled, leaving us exposed to the scorching sun, and the line of Rebels running towards us.

The Commander steps forward, reigniting his lightsaber in one hand and gently pushing me back with the other. “Go to the ship,” his mechanical voice demands. All I can do is look at his mask, the blinding sun reflecting off of it, and the Resistance members raising their weapons.

He swings his saber, absorbing the blasts as they come sailing towards him. One hand twirls the blade almost effortlessly while the other raises, sending the Rebels closest to him flying backwards. Another series of explosions wrack the earth, and I watch as the remains of the building topple to the ground. Behind it, several Resistance ships rise from the treeline, shooting off into the blue sky and out of sight.

A blast sizzling past my ear brings me back into the moment. Three Resistance members charge toward me from the right, and I raise my blaster, firing quickly and with precision I didn’t know I possessed. I am able to shoot the middle one instantly, and in four more shots, the other two are down. Sweat pours down my back and forehead, and my breathing feels labored. I lower my gun and find the Commander, who has moved forward and demolished over half of the Rebels remaining on the beach. Behind them lies another ship, a few of them retreating towards it.

After he slaughters the man and woman to his left, he charges towards the ship, hand balled into a fist, and I watch as sparks fly out of its hull. The ship powers to life, petering off the ground, before the sparks increase and the entire thing bursts into flames. Commander Ren continues storming towards it, saber deflecting blasts and cutting down the Rebels in its path. The Commander’s swings get more deliberate, with more energy and anger put into each one, stomping into each attack. I can hear screams of rage as he destroys everything within his reach.

I lunge forward, pulling my gun into sights, firing shots at the final Resistance members racing towards the charred remains of their ship. Some shots miss, but others don’t. As the people fall to the ground, I think of the trooper with the data chip. I think of the young man in the storage room with me, clutching his abdomen in agony, fear gripping his entire existence, choosing to end it all and not bear a second more of the torture he was enduring. Hot tears stream down my face and I scream, holding down the trigger, mowing down the few Rebels that were able to evade the Commander’s wrath.

The final enemy falls, too far away for me to hear his body hit the earth, and I stop walking, lowering my gun. My breaths are shallow and quick, teeth bared, sweat pouring down my back. I can feel the loose hair stuck to my cheek and forehead, and my jumpsuit clings to my body. I turn to the Commander, who is almost directly beside me. The red, crackling saber disappears and returns to his belt, his chest heaving. I can hear his deep, labored breaths through his modulator.

He turns to me, a black mask void of emotion, and holds the gaze for what feels like hours. After we catch our breaths, looking at each other, he turns back towards his own ship, and I fall in line behind him. Fatigue grips me as the adrenaline fades, and relief washes over me when the ramp hisses into a descent. Commander Ren stomps into the lobby, not breaking his quick strides as he enters the pilot’s cabin. My legs ache as I slump down into a chair, crossing my arms and placing my forehead onto them.

The crisp air of Commander Ren’s ship relaxes me, and I take slow, even breaths as my body cools. The ship rises and darts into space, and I close my eyes. Before long, I feel the ascension end and the steady cruise to the Finalizer begin. The door to the cockpit slides open, and I can feel his presence without raising my head or opening my eyes.

“Nurse.”

The word sounds soft, faint, even through the modulator. I look up at him. He is standing in the doorway, hands in fists. “Will you come in here?” he adds when I don’t move or respond.

I rise, pushing gently off the table, and traipse past Commander Ren and settle into the copilot’s seat. He returns to his chair, fingers approaching the base of his mask as if to remove it. My heart starts. But he hesitates, and his hands cross his chest instead. He lowers himself and sits next to me. “It was a trap,” he says simply, staring off into the large window before us. The stars twinkle against his visor, almost brighter than they do in space itself. “All of it. We walked right into it. Unprepared. Guard lowered.” I nod, electing to look into space as well. I’m not sure if he’s actually talking to me, or just speaking his thoughts aloud, trying to make some sense of this disaster of a mission.

“What a loss…” he trails off, then continues. “What a loss for the First Order.”

I nod again, unsure of what to say. A moment of silence passes between us. Abruptly, he turns, swiveling his chair towards me. “Why don’t you listen to me?” I look at him, his posture now in one of anger and frustration. I furrow my brow at him, completely at a loss for words. “Why do you refuse to listen to anything but your shit instincts? Your insolence cost us unnecessary casualties today. Seems pretty counter productive for a field nurse.”

Anger surges through my chest, the image of the trooper in the storage room flashing in my mind. I spit at the Commander, “Since when have you given a single damn about anyone in this Order except yourself? We were looking for information, because unlike you we aren’t just trying to invade every single planet and slaughter whatever we can. Even our own men.”

“How noble of you,” he sneers. “And what a great job you did, Nurse. Are you able to produce either the lives of the men who ignorantly followed your lead, or perhaps the vital information you were seeking?”

I feel white hot tears brimming my eyes, but I refuse to let them fall. I glare at him, trying to pour every ounce of hatred, resentment, and disrespect into the gaze as I can. I open my mouth to retort, but realization wracks my body, and it feels like my heart drops into my stomach. “Where are your men?” I ask quietly, my voice surprisingly faint. “Where’s the Captain? Where’s GD-294?”

Commander Ren bolts up, his hands flexing and unflexing. “I had to leave them,” he says, and he turns away from me, facing the wall. He takes a few steps, then pauses. “I had to leave them so I could get you out of the closet!” He whips around, finger pointed at me. “You’re done! You’re done as a field nurse.”

I can’t respond. The anger that was coursing through me is drenched by the loss of Captain GD-294. It feels as though stone weights are tied to my feet, dragging me down into murky depths. I shudder, my palm snaking over my mouth, trying desperately to keep my tears at bay.

“What happened to staying in the middle of the group? What happened to heeding the orders of your Commander?”

I can’t look at him. I can hear his breaths through the modulator, angry and quick. I don’t have the energy to fight with him, to defend my actions, because I know that he is right.

“Nurse!” he exclaims, “Answer me!”

Another beat passes between us, and my eyes finally fall upon the Commander. He stares back at me, and in that moment I realize how much I hate his mask. My bare face feels vulnerable, revealing, like I’m a specimen whose emotions and thoughts are being exposed and analyzed by a machine. A killing machine. I look at my Commander and I wonder if there is even a person underneath that visor.

“I had the lethal injection. I was going to use it.” Commander Ren’s body freezes. My lip trembles as I continue, “Like you said, my insolence cost lives. You know that GD-294 was a great captain. You know that. So why am I sitting here instead of him? Why did you go back for the disrespectful, inexperienced field nurse? So you could continue to belittle me in front of others? Is it some superiority complex for you? To berate those you despise?”

For a few moments, he says nothing. His body stays still, except for the subtle rise and fall of his chest. Due to the mask, I have no inclination as to what he’s thinking or feeling. I wait patiently, brow furrowed, refusing to break eye contact with the black helmet.

“Is that what you think?” he finally asks, the hostility in his voice now absent. “You think that’s why I went back for you? To continue the existence of someone I despise?”

All the oxygen leaves my chest, and my lips part. Something passes between us, some kind of feeling, an electric charge, a realization that dawns over us yet I don’t understand anything. Although all I can see is a mask, I know he felt it too. I can tell. His fingers knot together uncomfortably at his sides, his body tense.

“If that’s not why,” I start slowly, “then what is the reason? Why am I here?”

Commander Ren remains in his rigid position, but he turns his head to stare into the stars again. I keep my eyes on him, waiting for his answer. Finally, he moves, walking back to his chair and sitting down slowly and gently. His hand reaches forward, hovering over a small button, head hanging low. “You are dismissed, Nurse,” he says finally, keeping his hand above the controls.

I sit for a few moments, attempting to gather my bearings. Finally, I rise out of the chair and walk towards the door. My legs feel numb; I don’t feel my boots clanking against the floor, and it almost feels like I’m floating. I finally reach the door, and it slides open with a hiss. I wait before exiting, but I don’t know what exactly I’m waiting for. An explanation? An invitation to stay? An apology? I open my mouth to speak, turning my body to look at the Commander, who has not moved. No words come to me, yet again. So I turn and walk through the door frame.

When the door closes, I stand outside it, staring into the empty lobby. My hands feel limp against my sides. I close my eyes, and my heart jumps when I hear Commander Ren’s mechanical voice. “Commander Ren for Supreme Leader Snoke.” Even though the modulator morphs the sound into something harsh, the words radiate disappointment and guilt. I approach the table, not wanting to hear anymore, and resume the position of my head resting on my crossed arms. I cannot make out Commander Ren’s words through the closed door and the white noise of his ship cruising through space.

---

When we return and the ship touches the metal floor of the hangar, I jolt up, walking directly to the ramp so I can wait for it to descend. When it does, I quickly exit the ship, refusing to look behind me and potentially catch a glimpse of Commander Ren. The few stormtroopers that are patrolling at this time of night glance my way, then continue their route. Looking at them reminds me of the ones left behind, and I shake my head, darting towards the elevator and jamming my finger onto the button. When I enter the cart and order it to my level, I keep my eyes to the floor, but I can make out the dark form of the Commander as he glides across the hangar.

The doors close, and I exhale my breath. It crawls up the floors of the Finalizer, then releases me. I make my way towards my quarters, my steps echoing down the empty corridor. My fingers fumble when I swipe my way into my room, and I feel myself begin to unhinge the second that I cross the threshold.

I kick off my boots and rip off my jumpsuit, untying my hair and starting the shower. I keep the water a little cool, not wanting to relive the hot temperatures of the Isles. My body feels drained. My head is swimming with thoughts, but my heart feels numb, like it’s taken all that it can withstand and shuddered its last breath on Commander Ren’s ship.

After I scrub my body and wash my hair, I exit the shower and throw on my underclothes. I sit on the edge of the bed, wet hair dripping down my back, and stare at the discarded jumpsuit and backpack on my floor. I wonder if this was my last mission as a field nurse; if this is the legacy I leave behind. I can’t tell if the thought relieves or terrifies me.

I think of Captain GD-294, who did nothing but show me kindness and companionship in the few moments we had together. I think of the boy who died inside of the storage room with me, just seconds away from rescue. I think of Dr. Craine, the closest thing I have to a father, and Loemi, who called me her sister, and my true family that I have no recollection of. Everyone that I’ve come into contact with and formed some kind of bond with, is taken from me. Nothing is permanent in the First Order. Operations and missions will continue, and I will have to carry on without these people.

Without realizing it, I push myself off the bed and traipse towards my closet. I rip open the door, digging through the shirt that I wrapped the silver chain from Loemi in. I hold it in my hands, rolling it over and watching it sparkle in the stark light of my room. I fasten it against my neck, then flick off the light and climb into bed.

As I lay in the dark, I finger the thin chain and stare at the black wall. My body feels heavy and my eyelids tug downwards, begging for sleep. Before I give in to them, my thoughts drift to the matron nurse that I replaced, and I wonder what fate befell her. I wonder if she was truly reassigned, or if she was a field nurse as well and was caught in a situation similar to mine, and wasn’t as lucky. If she didn’t have a commander to come back and cut her out of a storage room. If she had no one to stop her from pressing the lethal injection into her arm.

It feels like my chest catches fire when I think of Commander Ren. Despite the trials that we have been through, I cannot help but to feel that I lost him as well. When my mind runs through the names of those I have encountered in my years in the First Order, his bangs against my ribs the hardest.

Chapter Text

I find myself walking through the cobblestone streets of the same lush jungle planet I visited before. There is a cool breeze that gently curls its fingers through my hair. I look down and see myself wearing brown, comfortable clothes and leather sandals. There are people walking on either side of me, wearing similar clothing, but nobody glances my way.

I walk forward, birds chirping and riding the wind before me. The trees shake gently. I look to my left and see a small cottage where a man is laying out baked goods and sweeteners made from scratch. He catches my eye and nods, then returns to his work.

A loud banging sound pierces the back of my skull. I instinctively grip my head, but nobody around me reacts. I hear it again, and I turn around. Commander Ren is approaching me, arm outstretched, beckoning me towards him. Another bang.

Nurse!

I shoot up in bed, gulping for air. I hear the banging again, and my brain finally pieces together that Syla is on the opposite side of my door, knocking on it loudly. I scramble for my holopad and flick it on, and I feel the blood drain from my face when I realize I was due at the medical bay three hours ago. “Syla!” I call out, ripping the blankets off my body. “I’m coming!”

I hear a faint “okay” as her response, and I quickly change out of my casuals and into a fresh pair of black scrubs. I run a hand through my hair, then tug it back into a low bun. It catches on the silver chain from Loemi, and my heart starts. I tuck the necklace under my top, grab my holopad, and dart out of my quarters.

Syla is waiting outside, her brow knotted and her cheeks flushed. “Are you alright?” I ask as my door slides to a close behind me. “I’m sorry. I returned from a very stressful field mission last night, but that doesn’t excuse my tardiness.”

“No, I’m sorry,” Syla says quickly. “We know about the mission. Dr. Iyshaak didn’t mind your absence, he even expected it.” She gulps. “But Commander Ren came looking for you, and it didn’t look good when we had to tell him we assumed you were in your quarters as you hadn’t come in to the bay yet.”

Syla turns to start towards the elevator, and I catch up quickly to walk beside her. My breath catches in my throat. A thousand possibilities as to why Commander Ren would come seeking me out the day after the Isles flash through my mind, and none of them are really positive. I picture his lightsaber cutting through the storage room door, us facing the remaining Rebels, the argument on his ship. “What does the Commander need to see me for?”

“He didn’t say,” Syla tosses to me. “But he seemed irritated. That’s why the Doctor sent me to get you.”

I pull in a breath through my nose as we enter the elevator. I blow it out slowly, watching the blinking light as it heads down towards the medical bay. Syla turns to me, “What happened?”

I shake my head slightly, giving her a small smile. “I don’t think I’m ready to talk about this one, Syla. I’m sorry.”

Syla chews on this, and I can see behind her eyes that she is trying to piece together what could be going on with the limited information she has. The door hisses open, and we make our way towards the infirmary. We pass a squadron of stormtroopers on our left, being lead by a captain, marked by his orange cuff. He nods to us, and my heart lurches when I think of Captain GD-294. I pull my lip in between my teeth, trying to push away my thoughts before they overtake me.

The medical bay is busy, but not busy enough to where my absence would have affected it. Each nurse is attending a patient, but none seem seriously injured or like they are in a hurry. Dr. Iyshaak stands at the back of the room, arms crossed. I approach him. “I apologize, Doctor. My last field mission took a lot out of me, and I guess my body needed rest.”

Dr. Iyshaak nods. “I figured, I saw the report in the incoming files this morning.” I see sympathy glaze over his eyes briefly, then he continues. “I didn’t expect you to come in. I’m sure Syla informed you as to why I had her retrieve you.”

“Yes,” I confirm, and I try my best to mask the nervousness I feel. “Did he mention what it was regarding?”

“No,” Dr. Iyshaak sighs, adjusting the glasses on his face. “And he already left, saying he would return later. I’m afraid I have to ask you to stay.”

“That’s fine,” I say quietly, and I brush past him to enter the office.

Since all the the current patients are taken care of, I begin to stock the dry supplies, opening new packaging to replace expired products and organizing the cupboards. Bandages, non-adhesives, bacta patches of varying sizes to the left; creams, ointments, sterilizers to the right. I close that one and open the next, trying to make some order of the various casts and slings that clutter it.

The door opens and Syla appears, and she crosses her arms, standing in the middle of the room and watching me work. I finish the cabinet and move on to the next, then glance over towards her. She is looking at the ground, chewing her lip. “Are you okay?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she nods, turning to look out the office door. “There’s new recruits for a stormtrooper squadron coming in for their physicals and immunizations in a few minutes.”

“Okay,” I say softly, opening a new package of coagulants.

“I’m supposed to work it but…” she trails off.

“Do you want me to help?”

“If you’re not too busy.”

“It’s a pretty slow day, and there must be nothing scheduled seeing as Dr. Iyshaak was fine with me not coming in. Well,” I start, tilting my head, “until Commander Ren came.”

Syla falls silent again, then says so quietly I have to ask her to repeat it, “Do you think you’re being reassigned?”

The blood drains from my cheeks, and my hands freeze in place, cradling a half opened package of irrigation bulbs. I fight the wave of nausea that overtakes my body and toss her a faint smile. “I don’t think so, Syla.”

A grin cracks her face, and she turns to exit the office. “I think the squadron is here,” she calls back to me.

“Okay,” I respond, pulling out the remaining irrigation bulbs and quickly but neatly placing them in the bottom right cabinent.

I exit the office and return to the medical bay, where only two actual patients remain. A line is visible from the front door of the infirmary, stormtrooper after stormtrooper waiting while their Captain speaks to Dr. Iyshaak. I approach tables 1 and 2, standing in between them, and Dr. Iyshaak turns to me. “Are you helping her?”

“Yes,” I nod. Syla emerges from the office carrying the immunization packages. Dr. Iyshaak smiles at me, then turns back to the Captain as the first troopers sit at either table. Syla rolls out the packages, and we begin.

Each stormtrooper strips down to their casuals, allowing us to check their vitals and record their physicalities. After a brief examination, we administer the seven immunizations: two on left arm, three on right arm, one nasal, and one to the back of the neck. We then take the holopads and type up a report of the trooper, confirm the administration of the shots, then send it off. Some of the troopers are confident, excited even, eager to cooperate. Others are nervous, hands shaking while they dress down or gripping the sides of the tables when we unroll their personal immunization packages. My fifth trooper passes out at the sight of the needles, and my heart lurches into my stomach for him. I reach under the table for the smelling salt, glancing at his Captain, who I know is making a mental note as I quickly bring him back into consciousness.

Syla works diligently, but not quickly. She meticulously performs vitals, check ups, immunizations, but I can tell she is following a checklist in her head. Since I have performed many of these on the Supremacy, more than I could ever come close to counting, the flow is natural, like my brain is on auto pilot. I am able to knock out several physical checks while I am taking vitals, and my immunizations are quick and painless. My line dwindles down to just three remaining troopers, while hers still leads out the door. I finish up my soldiers just as a single stormtrooper comes in, complaining of an allergic reaction to a medication prescribed to him earlier in the week.

“I’m going to take this,” I say to Syla, pulling off my gloves for a fresh pair. “Let me know if you need assistance.”

She nods, keeping her eyes on the needle lining up with the trooper’s left arm. When I reach table 6, I don a new pair of gloves and smile at the stormtrooper. “What’s going on?” I ask as he pulls off his helmet. I notice his neck and lower cheeks are grazed with red blotches, and appear to be a bit swollen. “Is it just the hives?”

“My throat feels tight,” he responds, and I reach under the table and slide open the second drawer, shuffling around for the allergy paste. I retrieve it and break the seal, squeezing a dab onto my gloved hand. I instruct him to open his mouth, scraping the paste onto his tongue. Immediately, his eyes squeeze shut.

“It’s terrible, I apologize. But it works,” I say, returning the paste to the drawer and yanking off my gloves. I trot towards the office. “I’ll get you some water. What did you have a reaction to?”

“The antibiotic. I don’t remember the name of it,” he calls after me, and I already hear a clearance in his voice. I grab a water from inside the cold storage and bring it to him, then type in his call number into the holopad and order another antibiotic sent to his quarters. He thanks me, takes the water, and exits.

The rest of the day continues like this. Syla works on her squadron for another half hour, then is done. A few stormtroopers filter in and out with small, quick problems. Even though Syla and two other nurses are here, I tend as many patients as I can. I try desperately to keep my mind off of Commander Ren, Captain GD-294 and the other trooper, and the possibility of my reassignment. My eyes repeatedly snap to the doors, whether or not I hear a noise from outside, waiting for the Commander to appear, and I feel an odd combination of relief and disappointment every time it’s not him.

One nurse is sent home, and then another, and then Syla. The medical bay is empty, and I grab the sanitized rags from inside the office and begin to scrub down the tables. Dr. Iyshaak, the only other soul in the infirmary, watches me from his desk. “You know, we have a droid for that.”

“I know,” I say faintly, moving on to the next table. I feel the Doctor’s eyes on me, then he returns to his holopad. Thankfully, he leaves me to keep my mind busy. I know he said he read the report of my mission, but I don’t know how much he is aware of, or even how detailed the reports are compared to actually experiencing it.

“You know, most field nurses are strictly that, field nurses,” he starts, but doesn’t pull his head away from the holopad. “Being a matron nurse as well as working operations might be too much. Perhaps the Commander is letting you choose which one you would prefer?”

“Perhaps,” I agree, nodding my head. But this doesn’t soothe me.

After the tables are sanitized, I return the rag to the office. Dr. Iyshaak is standing, throwing a medical bag over his shoulder. “I have to visit a bed-ridden on Floor 5,” he says, stomping towards the exit. “I’ll be back in about an hour.”

I nod, sitting in the chair at his desk and flicking open my own holopad. I hear the med bays doors hiss closed behind him, and I nestle into the chair. I check my messages, only to find nothing unread. I close the holopad and toss it to the side, curling my legs under myself.

It isn’t long before I hear the doors open again, and I hear boots clanking on the floor. I suck in a breath, slipping out of the chair and hurrying into the infirmary. But my eyes are met by a stark white figure, not an oil black one.

I straighten my bun and turn to the closest table, putting on a pair of new gloves. “Hello,” I say, glancing back towards the trooper. “What brings you in?” But he doesn’t answer, just continues sauntering towards me. I stare at him, and it’s then that I recognize the familiar limp in his step.

The stormtrooper grasps his helmet, fumbling a bit before he tosses it onto the floor. It clanks and rolls underneath a table, the same one he uses to steady himself as he stumbles. I rush towards him, and am immediately greeted by the smell of alcohol and a pair of glazed eyes.

“You didn’t come,” he slurs, and he furrows his eyebrows. “You didn’t come to the bar last night.”

“I was in the field,” I explain, and I was about to apologize, but I stop myself.

“Sure you were,” he groans, closing the gap between us. His fingers snake around my wrist, gripping tightly. “You weren’t there tonight, either.”

“I was here,” I say, and I try to retrieve my arm, but to no use.

He pulls me to him by yanking my wrist up, and I seethe. I instinctively reach for my blaster, and then I realize I’m in my scrubs, and that my blaster is sitting in its holster in my quarters. My mind races quickly, trying to remember which sharp medical tool is closest to me. A scalpel resides in the lowest drawer of the table to my right. I inch my way towards it, keeping my eyes locked on the trooper.

I hear the med bay doors open, and my gaze focuses behind him, and I see Commander Ren. He storms into the room, cowl whipping behind him, directly behind the stormtrooper. “FZ-836,” his mechanical voice erupts.

FZ-836 jumps violently, releasing my hand and staggering backwards. I watch as his body is flung against the opposite wall, and Commander Ren stalks towards him, reaching for his lightsaber. “Commander,” I say sternly, stepping forward. He ignores me, and the blade crackles to life. The stormtrooper scrambles to his feet, using a table to pull himself up.

“Ren!” I yell, rushing over to stand between them.

“Move,” he says flatly, his fingers tightening around the handle of his lightsaber.

“Not everything has to be solved with violence, Commander,” I retort, narrowing my eyes at him.

The black helmet holds my gaze for a few seconds, and then the blade disappears. He reaches past me and curls his fingers, and FZ-836 is launched forward and crumples into the table behind the Commander. “You are not to step foot into this medical bay ever again,” he sneers over the man as he crawls across the floor, pitifully placing his helmet back on his head. “You had better hope to the Force that nothing ever happens to you on an operation… or in the hall.” Commander Ren growls the last word, and FZ-836 scurries out of the infirmary like a wounded dog.

After the stormtrooper disappears, Commander Ren stays facing the med bay doors, his chest heaving. Without thinking, I turn and disappear into the office. The anger at the Commander’s intrusion and the nervousness of whatever he needs to speak with me about are raging a battle inside me. I find myself pacing in front of Dr. Iyshaak’s desk.

Commander Ren materializes in the doorway, his arms crossed. “I am growing tired of having to do this, Nurse,” he says simply.

“I absolutely could have handled that myself,” I fire back.

“You didn’t know his intentions,” the Commander spits, leering forward at me.

“And you did?” My eyebrows cross and I grit my teeth, staring at Commander Ren. He says nothing, but I hear something similar to a scoff emulate from his modulator. He shakes his head slightly, focusing on the cold storage behind me. When the silence continues, I prod, “What about you, Commander? What are your intentions?”

“Not to listen to you speak out of turn.”

He is still not looking directly at me, and his words are breathy and nonchalant. I close my eyes in frustration, trying not to let it overtake me. I cross my arms and lean back against the cabinets I stocked earlier today, cocking my head to the side as I ask, “You needed to speak to me?”

He nods slowly, and I hold my breath as I wait. When he still doesn’t explain, I swallow a lump in my throat and ask meekly, “Am I being reassigned?”

Finally, the helmet faces me again. “No,” he quips, with a tone suggesting that it was stupid of me to even ask that. He sighs, fiddling with a stack of papers on the desk. “I need you to…” he looks down, at his fingers grazing over the white sheets, then back up to me. “I need you to look at something for me.”

“Okay,” I nod, rooted to my position.

Commander Ren stares at me for a moment, and I notice the steady rise and fall of his chest. Finally, he flicks his wrist to the side, and I hear the office door lock behind him. His hands travel to the base of his mask, where he unhinges it. My heart catches fire and I stare, my mouth opened slightly as the mechanisms hiss open. His thumbs hook under the chin of the helmet and he removes it, placing it on Dr. Iyshaak’s desk, and I see him, I really see him, Kylo Ren.

Brown shaggy hair falls to his shoulders, framing his face. Strong, pointed nose. Golden brown eyes, piercing me from across the room. Full pink lips. And, running across his face like a shattered mirror, is a blackened burn.

Chapter Text

He’s so… young.

To be fair, I wasn’t sure what I expected to see underneath Commander Ren’s mask. Perhaps an old, weathered, hardened man with dark eyes and a scar across his right eye. Or a creature with dark purple skin, virtually indestructible, who was forced to wear a helmet in order to breathe aboard the starships or other planets that he was not native to. Maybe he wasn’t even a being at all, just a machine programmed to be ruthless in battle and condescending to his subordinates.

There are many things that I imagined Commander Kylo Ren to be, and none of them are the young man standing before me, looking at me with apprehension and with his full lips slightly parted.

I’m not sure how long I stare at him, and him at me, until finally I hear him utter, “The burn on my face, will you look at it?”

The sound of his voice snaps me out of my trance. His voice is deep, even without the modulator, and has a smooth, silken cadence to it. The sound of it sends shivers up my spine. “Oh, yes,” I respond, pushing myself off the cabinets and approaching him.

As soon as my fingertips touch the base of his chin, positioning his face into better light, I realize that I do not have gloves on. I stumble back awkwardly, snatching a pair out of the dispenser on the counter, and mumble an apology as I slip them on. The Commander does not acknowledge this, but turns his face back into the angle I had placed it in.

As he turns his neck, I am able to get a good look at the burn snaking its way across his face. It starts at the base of his jaw, then splits. One streak spreads up his left cheek, over his left eye, and almost to his hairline, while the other goes across his nose and curls down his right cheek. The burn is deep, yet charred, almost as if whatever struck him was hot enough to immediately cauterize the wound. The skin around it is not inflamed, and there is no oozing, signifying no infection. It does not appear to have been cause by a flame, due to the clean cut lines and shape of the burn, but I cannot wrap my brain around what kind of weapon or instrument could have done this. Something electrical, perhaps?

His eyes flick to my face, watching me as I follow the blackened routes along his cheeks. My eyes catch his, and I feel my mouth run dry. “What happened?”

“Does it matter?” he asks, and I am too entranced by the sound of his natural voice to get irritated at his rudeness.

“Well, if I knew exactly what caused this, I can better assess how to treat it,” I respond, and I turn to the cold storage unit and rummage through the burn salves. “How long ago did you get burned?”

“On the Isles,” he replies, and I my thoughts drift back to the detonators in the ruins and the weapons the Rebels faced us with. Nothing stands out as being the culprit of his injury. Not to mention, his helmet was, and still is, perfectly intact.

I find a cream that is used for third degree burns, sterile and with infection-fighting components. I set it on the counter and search again, finding another salve known for its cooling properties and quickening the process of fusing skin cells back together. I grab both jars and turn back to the Commander, ordering him to sit in Dr. Iyshaak’s chair while I mix the two medicines: 2 parts sterile, 1 part cooling.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” Commander Ren asks as he watches me mix the creams with a tongue depressor.

“The fact that you personally asked me to assess your injury leads me to believe that I don’t need to answer that,” I say simply, scraping the new medicine into a clean container. I notice the Commander’s jaw tighten, and I cannot decipher if it’s from agitation or amusement.

I stand before him, leaning down and starting at the base of the jaw, where the burn is deepest and appears to have originated. As I spread the clear cream over his skin, he looks away, focusing on the wall behind me. Something about the action feels intrusive, almost intimate. He doesn’t feel like the same person I’ve been interacting with for the past couple of weeks. I feel my heartbeat quicken.“How exactly did this happen?” I try again, getting more cream and placing it on the bridge of his nose.

Commander Ren does not speak, again, and I figure that I will not get an answer out of him. Instead, as I am finishing up the last of the injury on his right side, his eyes suddenly find mine. I stop and hold his gaze, finger lingering in the small tub of medicine. A beat passes between us and I feel my breath catch in my throat. “What is your name?” he asks, brow knotting.

I sigh, pulling back to a full stand and screwing the top back onto his medicine. “M17-L33 is my number.”

“No, your name,” he repeats, still sitting in the Doctor’s chair. “I heard the nurse and the doctor from the Supremacy call you something else.”

“Oh,” I realize, labeling, signing, and dating the medicine jar and placing it into cold storage, “they called me Mil or Millie. That’s just from my call number, M17. I don’t know my birth name. I don’t remember anything before I was a nurse here.” I laugh faintly, pulling off my gloves and discarding them. My hand absentmindedly finds the chain around my neck. “I think, after a few years, they didn’t like just calling me Nurse.”

Commander Ren nods, looking at the ground, then stands, grabbing his helmet and holding it in his hands. “Am I done?” he asks.

“For now,” I say, “I would do two or three more treatments on your burn.”

He nods, then slips the helmet back onto his head. He swipes his hand, unlocking the office door, and it slides open before him. As he takes a step to leave, I call out behind him, “Commander!”

He turns back, now the familiar, foreboding figure I am used to seeing. I gulp, and before I lose the courage, I ask, “Is that normal, to not remember anything but this life?”

He is silent for a moment, then finally says, “I would not know, Nurse. I’m not from the program.” His voice is harsh and mechanical again. I nod, sucking my lip in between my teeth, and he turns and exits the office. I remain in that position long after I hear the medical bay doors open and close.

It is not until much later, when Dr. Iyshaak returns and asks me to retrieve something from the cold storage unit, that I realize the Commander did not take his medicine with him.

---

The next morning, I awaken to a message ordering me to another meeting regarding a smaller mission. I spend a few morning hours at the medical bay, and then around mid afternoon, I head to Floor 3, Room 6. I sit in the briefing room, tucking my hands under my arms, remarking at how unreasonably cold it is. Instead of General Hux, I am listening to another man, General Bailarde, explain my next mission, regarding a mining rig posted on the frigid planet of Mykonus. This rig is owned and operated by the First Order, and has been for some time. The minerals harvested are used to create our weapons.

I will be accompanying Captain LE-493’s squadron as he meets with the miners, inspects the rig, and makes sure the shipments are on track. The planet is not fair, and we are expected to be finished and on our way back within an hour. General Bailarde instructs us to return to our quarters and prepare for departure, then meet in the hangar in thirty minutes.

When I return to my room, I pull my snowsuit out of my closet and slip it on. I grab my backpack and holster, securing them to my body, and then don my boots and gloves. I pause at the mirror again, redoing my bun, and then trek down to the hangar.

There is not much activity in the loading dock. Only a few pilots are present, slid under their ships and working diligently, while droids of varying sizes scuttle around. I notice Captain LE-493 standing next to a ship similar in build to Commander Ren’s, but much smaller. I tighten the straps of my backpack and head towards it.

I glance to the left and, as if summoned by the mere thought of him, my eyes meet the oil black helmet of Commander Ren. He stands next to General Hux, arms crossed, watching as I ascend the ramp. Even though General Hux and another general are speaking with him, he does not look away from me. Now that I know the face that resides beneath the helmet, I can see the brown eyes, pink lips, constellation of moles across soft skin, broken up by his ghastly wound. I wonder what expression his features hold. Confusion? Anger? Nervousness? I’ll never know. The Commander holds my gaze until he is out of my sight.

A few minutes later, Captain LE-493 joins me and four other stormtroopers on the ship, and it powers to life around us. The ship has a lobby with a smaller, four-seated table, and no dormitory or private quarters. I lean against the wall, and the trip is short, and we are descending towards the icy surface of the planet. Frigid gusts of wind rock the ship, and I have to grasp the handles hanging from above to steady myself.

Finally, the ship clanks down. The ramp hisses open, and the stormtroopers draw their weapons. I keep my hands at my sides, but position myself in the middle of the group, Commander Ren’s advice flashing through my mind. Captain LE-493 leads us across the ice and towards a large, black, industrial looking building. Thick smoke billows out of a series of pipes jutting out from the roof. The doors are large, stretching up the entire length of the building, and they shake the earth as they creak open slowly.

Waiting for us is a pair of short green beings, twiddling their fingers, standing in front of a large window that pans over the mine. I can see ancient looking machines zapping the walls of the icy cavern, then extracting small red stones. As the doors behind us begin to close, the green creatures waddle towards us, smiling to reveal yellow, jagged teeth.

“Captain,” one of the beings starts, extending his arms forward in a sign of welcome, “right on time, as usual. We are happy to report that not only are we entirely on schedule, but we will be able to exceed the order by about 25%, if you choose to do so.”

Captain LE-493 nods, but does not acknowledge what the creature says. “Please show me through the mines, Yr’Uba.”

“Of course,” he responds, him and the other being turning and heading towards a door on the left. We follow, and the stormtroopers draw their weapons. I can’t help but to furrow my brows at them, leaving my blaster in its holster.

The door leads down a cold metal stairwell, and then out into the mines. The air is significantly colder here, but every time one of the lasers slices through the icy walls, I feel a wave of heat. Every couple hundred feet, there is a small control center where others of the same species are monitoring the machines. Yr’Uba turns around, walking backwards, clearly proud of the work they’ve done. “The machines are old, but they still work very efficiently. We have had much success in harvesting the crystals.”

Again, the Captain nods, but does not directly respond to what the little man says. Irritation flares in my chest. I cross my arms as I walk.

We reach a fork in the road. I glance down both ways, and I see the caverns go on for miles, filled with zapping lasers and control stations. Yr’Uba turns. “Do you wish to continue? Or is this sufficient?”

“This is sufficient,” Captain LE-493 replies. “Take us back to the conference room so we can go over the orders.”

Yr’Uba and his companion lead us back to the main entrance, and we walk straight across to another door on the opposite room. Here, there is a large, silver metal table lined with stationary chairs. On both the left and right walls are numerous screens, each monitoring a different portion of the mines. My eyes scan across them, and each seems like it could be the cavern we just walked through. They all look identical.

The Captain and Yr’Uba speak at the head of the table for a few minutes, and Yr’Uba changes one of the screens to scrolling data, which the Captain reviews. Once they are finished, Yr’Uba extends an arm to shake Captain LE-493’s hand, which he ignores. I glare at him as he turns and exits the conference room, the other stormtroopers and I following.

“Thank you for visiting us, Captain,” says Yr’Uba, smiling with his crooked teeth. “I assume the Supreme Leader will hear positive things?”

“Yes,” the Captain affirms, and the large doors began to slide open for him.

I am the last to pass Yr’Uba and the other being, and I stop and turn to him. “It seems like you are doing a great job here. I am impressed, and I’m sure the Order is grateful.”

Yr’Uba reveals his dark yellow teeth again. “Thank you, Nurse. Always a pleasure to serve the First Order.”

The ride back to the Finalizer seems even shorter than the ride to Mykonus. As always, I take my place leaning against the right wall, closest to the ramp so I can quickly exit. When we dock in the hangar, I glance to the right, but Commander Ren is not there. Disappointment pangs in my chest.

I do not pass a single soul on my way back to my quarters. I shrug off my snowsuit, turning on the hot water in my shower. The warm stream relaxes my frigid body, and I sigh as it runs down my hair and back. Even though I barely sweat in the suit, I still scrub my body down with soap. I wash my hair quickly, rinsing it and turning off the water. I dry off, slip into my casuals, and crawl into bed. I set an alarm to make sure I am on time to the medical bay, and snuggle under my blanket.

For a while, sleep evades me. I toss and turn, unable to get comfortable, every position is either too hot or too cold or just doesn’t feel well. Even when I finally feel my body relax, my eyes keep opening, staring at the blank wall. My mind feels restless.

After a few more minutes, I sigh, throwing the blanket off of me and padding out of bed. I change out of my casuals and into a freshly cleaned pair of scrubs. Instead of a low bun, I plait my hair into a thick braid, letting it hang wet on my back. This chills me, so I slip on the thick jacket with the First Order insignia, and I grab my holopad and stick it in the large pocket. The door to my quarters hisses open as I approach them, stuffing my hands into my pockets and walking towards the elevator.

I get in, order it to the medical bay, and return my hands to my pockets. I exit the elevator, and I pass only a pair of stormtroopers on nightly patrol before I’m at the entrance to the infirmary. The lights are off, door locked, meaning for the first time since I arrived on this ship, there are no overnight patients. I press my hand against the control pad, and is scans my palm and allows me entrance. I know that Dr. Iyshaak will receive an alert, so I type a quick message to let him know I am doing some inventory before heading to bed.

I flick on the lights just so I can clearly make my way to the office doors, then I shut them off again. I turn on the office lights, and the room is immaculate, seeing as I cleaned and organized it just yesterday. I sigh, standing in the room idly, not sure what to do with myself. I decide to actually do what I told the Doctor I was, and I open my holopad to the order form and open the cold storage unit, checking to see what items we need more of. I take my time glancing through them, in no hurry. In fact, I back up and turn on the small radio sitting on the Doctor’s desk, then return to my work.

I hum along to the melody that softly plays in the room, my fingers tapping on the screen of my holopad. I close the cold storage unit and turn to my right to check dry storage. Just as I do, a black figure materializes out of the door to the medical bay, and my heart leaps out of my chest.

I yelp, staggering backwards, fumbling with my holopad but managing to catch it before it clanks against the ground. Commander Ren scoffs. “I tried to announce myself.” He tilts his head towards the radio.

I glower at him, stalking to the radio and turning it down. “What are you doing here? It’s after hours.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I work here.”

Commander Ren leans forward. “And I command the First Order that allows you to work here.”

I don’t respond, turning my to my holopad and continuing my work. Commander Ren stands there for a moment, watching me, before slowly raising his hands and removing his helmet. I look at him, and my eyes meet his. The burn on his face is no longer black, now a soft red; skin is growing over the wound. It is nowhere near as deep as it was, either. “Do I need another treatment?” he asks, his voice low.

“Yes,” I say softly, and I set my holopad down and turn towards cold storage. I retrieve his medicine and twist the cap off. He sits down in the Doctor’s chair, and I grab a fresh pair of gloves as I approach him. I dip my finger into the cool gel, leaning over him and beginning on the left side of his face as I did before. A piece of my hair, loose from the braid, falls in front of my face, and I blow it back towards my hairline.

“Where did you go today?” Commander Ren asks.

“A small mission,” I respond, dabbing my finger into the serum again. “It doesn’t surprise me that you didn’t hear of it.”

“Where to?”

“Mykonus. The mining rig.”

He nods, and I continue spreading the medicine, now reaching the part above his eye. I feel his eyes on me, flicking to the ground for a few moments before settling on me again, and I take a deep breath, letting my eyes connect with his a few times. I begin the final section, on his right cheek, and look down to swab more medicine. As I do, the piece of hair falls again, and I try to blow it again, only for it to fall right back into my face.

I suck in a breath, but Commander Ren’s gloved hand raises, swiping the piece of hair and tucking it behind my ear. I look at him, and him at me, and his fingers brush the tip of my ear and linger there for a moment. He swallows.

I am the first to tear my eyes away, using the last of the medicine on his right cheek and then screwing the cap back on. I toss it into the waste, and Commander Ren leans back. “You might need one more treatment,” I say, pulling off my gloves.

“I’ll be gone tomorrow,” Commander Ren responds. “On a mission.”

My eyes widen, and I glance to my holopad. “No field nurse on this one,” he says quietly, “Only me.”

I nod, turning to the papers on Dr. Iyshaak’s desk and scribbling out the names of his medicine. “You can order this from your holopad. Just type ‘M17’ into the memo space, and I’ll make it and send it to your quarters.”

He nods, taking the paper from me. He stands for a moment, before uttering a thank you. He folds the paper and grabs his helmet, holding it in his hands and looking towards the ground.

“Commander,” I say softly, folding my arms again. His brown eyes dart towards me. “Why…” I pause, licking my lips. “Why do you always come for me?”

As soon as the words leave my mouth, I realize how juvenile and immaturely I phrased it. I close my eyes for a moment, trying to push back my rising embarrassment, and reopen them. The Commander is still looking at me, and it seems like his eyes soften. “Because you’re the best field nurse of the First Order.”

My heart quickens. I look at him, taking a deep breath, and I’m sure he can hear it beating from where he stands. He places the helmet on again, and it locks into place. “Don’t let it get to your head,” he quips, his voice adjusting to the modulator. “You’re difficult to work with as it is.”

And with that, he departs. I take another long breath, my legs shaking beneath me. I glance at Dr. Iyshaak’s desk, and I see my handwriting on the neatly folded paper, fluttering as the office door closes.

Chapter Text

After resetting my alarm, taking a quick shower, and dressing into my oil black scrubs, I make my way down to the medical bay of the Finalizer. My semi-wet hair is pulled into its standard low bun, and I have my jacket draped over me due to the shivers it sends down my spine. I can’t help but to cross my arms as I walk, both from the temperature and the hazy exhaustion that hangs over me. Sleep was fleeting for me last night, after my encounter with the Commander. Our past couple of interactions, paired with his conflicting comments and actions, left my head swimming.

When I turn the corner and head towards the infirmary, my eyes catch a dark clothed figure hovering around the entrance. My heart starts when my eyes connect with General Hux’s icy blue ones. A smile cracks his face. “Nurse M17-L33,” he greets.

“General,” I return the grin, giving him a quick bow.

“I was hoping to intercept you on your way here,” he says, stepping in front of me so that I cannot enter the medical bay without moving around him. “I have noticed that the activity in this infirmary has been lower than usual. I believe this can partially be attributed to your work in the field.” He pauses, thinking for a moment, before going on, “I consider the mission to the Isles an outlier.” He sighs, disdain filling his voice. “That mission was poorly planned and even more poorly executed.”

The mention of the operation to Izo Ankora makes my blood run cold. As always, my thoughts jump back to the young stormtrooper and Captain GD-294 that were left behind. How I should have been left behind, yet for some reason I stand, speaking to General Hux, while their bodies remain. The floor sways slightly beneath my feet, and I blink rapidly, shaking the existential thoughts away.

“Regardless, I have a proposition for you. Since this med bay has had much lower volume lately, I want you to spend the day aboard the Supremacy. There are quite a few classes of new stormtroopers that will need their immunizations, as well as a few squadrons that are returning from operations and may need attention. It is my understanding that one of the newer nurses here is struggling to keep her head above water when there are more than three patients in the ward.” General Hux grimaces, annoyance radiating from his tone and his posture. “Dr. Iyshaak has suggested that she would be more suitable aboard the Supremacy, where there are less critical patients and an overall slower pace. The First Order does not have time to move people around and try to squeeze them in somewhere they fit.” His eyes lower. “There are many nurses that could take her place. Especially ones that will not miss shifts or take too long of breaks.”

“I understand,” I nod.

“This is only for today,” the General continues, “Don’t get too comfortable on the Supremacy. The Supreme Leader believes that you are much more vital as a matron nurse here and a field nurse for select operations.”

“Yes, General,” I affirm, “I am grateful for the opportunities I have been presented and even more grateful to hear the Supreme Leader is pleased.”

General Hux nods. Just as he does, the medical bay doors slide open behind me, revealing Syla, her face painted with nervousness. His eyes dart to her, and his pleasant demeanor vanishes. “Nurse S19-T01,” he greets her, his words short and clipped, “I trust that the Doctor has informed you of your alternative task today. You will be accompanied by Nurse M17-L33 as she worked on the Supremacy for many years and is very knowledgeable of its staff, layout, and procedures.”

“Yes, General,” Syla nods, her voice quivering.

“For your sake, I hope this medical ward is a better fit,” he smiles, but there is no compassion behind it. Syla does not respond, and I cannot think of anything to say to either of them. A beat passes between the three of us before the General nods to both of us, turning on his heel and walking down the hall.

After General Hux departs, Syla’s shoulders relax. She walks to stand closer to me, and I can see tears swimming in her eyes. “It’s okay,” I affirm, giving her a small grin. “The Supremacy will be much better for you. You’re very intelligent and thorough.”

She smiles at me, a genuine expression filled with relief and gratitude. “Thank you,” she says softly.

We separate, her retreating to her quarters to gather her things and meet me in the hangar. I go straight there, taking the elevator down, sticking my hands into my pockets. I feel nervousness blooming in my chest, an urgency to make sure Syla succeeds and earns her place. The warnings of General Hux bounce around in my head, not only for Syla’s sake, but also for mine, that potentially this could be a lesson for me as well, a statement about the availability of field nurses who do not need rescuing from storage closets. I conclude that I will need to focus more in the field, to hone in my senses and strengthen my abilities, to succeed. I cannot, and will not, rely on the Commander to affirm that I make it back to my quarters after every mission. That is my duty; to preserve myself, so that other lives can be preserved as well.

The elevator doors open, revealing the hangar and its window into the vastness of space. I notice a very small shuttle being prepped closest to the exit, and I can only assume that it will be our transport to the Supremacy. Two droids scuttle around it, making sure everything is order, and to my relief they don’t seem to fixing or adjusting anything.

A loud roaring sound catches my attention, and I watch as Commander Ren’s ship appears out of the inky blackness, basically a silhouette against the pinpricked backdrop. It hovers above the floor, its landing gear hissing open as it slowly descends. I watch as two generals quickly approach the ramp, where Commander Ren appears and stalks down to greet them. I stand and watch, crossing my arms in front of my chest.

After a few moments, the Commander pushes through the two men, heading towards the elevator. I assume he catches a glimpse of me, as his helmet snaps towards me, and he changes his direction slightly to approach me. The two generals that were following him falter as they watch, knotting their eyebrows, choosing to hang back and speak to each other as Commander Ren surges towards me.

“Nurse,” he says flatly, coming to a stop before me. “I didn’t realize there were patients inside of the hangar today.”

“There’s not,” I say slowly, confusion enveloping me.

“Ah,” he nods, turning back to look towards his ship. “So you’re just doing nothing, then. What a valuable matron nurse.”

The confusion morphs into irritation, and it takes every muscle in my body not to roll my eyes at him. The way he can transform from a man with some type of compassion back to his original arrogant ways is uncanny. “I’m waiting on another nurse to be transported to the Supremacy.”

He turns back to me, silent for a moment. I can’t guess as to what he’s thinking, due to the black mask that sits over his face. I try to picture his soft brown eyes, pink lips, strong nose, to guess what form they’ve taken under the helmet. I stare into the mask, trying to keep my expression blank. “Did you request to return?” he asks finally.

“No. One of the newer nurses has been struggling with the pace of this ship, so she’s being reassigned. I’m accompanying her to get her used to the new environment,” I respond, uncrossing my arms to put my hands in my pockets again. “I think she’s better suited for that ward.”

He nods, glancing back at the two generals, then back to me. “How long will you be absent?”

“I assume I’ll be back tonight,” I respond. “General Hux said I would only be assisting her for the day.”

“Oh, good. I would hate for this ward to be without its matron nurse for too long.” He turns and starts back towards the generals, tossing over his shoulder. “Who else would we have to stand and do nothing while we have incoming troopers?”

I growl under my breath, staring daggers into his back as he enters the elevator, trailed by the two generals. I can’t help but to dwell on the fact that I much prefer him without his mask. Donning the black helmet also comes with an air of superiority, impatience, disdain. Without it, he is much more human, like he is truly being himself rather than playing the role of the Commander of the First Order.

A few minutes after he departs, Syla arrives, her bag slung over her shoulder and the same nervous expression on her face. I clap my hand onto her shoulder and smile, before we are directed to the shuttle by one of the pilots.

---

“Okay,” I start, my hand cradling the bare arm of a stormtrooper, turned towards Syla, “when they first check in, your first job is to check vitals. Your next job is to record physicalities.” I guide the trooper by the arm to make him stand, scanning him with the holopad and digitally recording his height, body mass, weight. “The holopad does most of the work in your second job, so you can combine the two. While this analyzes them, go ahead and take his blood pressure and temperature. Once you’ve taken all of the vitals, you can also begin to administer the immunizations.”

Syla nods, her eyes wide, drinking in the information. She takes the arm of the trooper from me and begins to scan his body, allowing the holopad to do its work while she takes vitals and prepares immunizations. She is faster than she was before, but not by much. I encourage her, then step aside to take vitals and physicalities of my own line of troopers. Despite what General Hux said, only one squadron has come in from an operation, and the injuries were minimal. It is mostly new recruits. Syla, myself, and two other nurses all have lines out the door.

After a few minutes, I notice that Syla’s line is moving slower than the others. I bite my lip, toss her a reminder to double up on basically anything that she can, then get back to work. She is the last to finish by fifteen minutes. I notice the Doctor, one I do not recognize and did not hear the name of, watching her and making notes in his holopad. My heart surges.

Once her line is finished up, I walk her through two stormtroopers laid out onto the medical tables, a bullet wound to the left arm and a broken leg. The more serious the injury, the more scatterbrained she becomes. She drops instruments, skips crucial steps that I know she remembers, is unable to answer basic questions that I prompt her with. The self-assured, almost cocky girl that I first met has now been replaced with one that second guesses herself and is constantly looking over her shoulder. I can’t help but to feel my heart break for her. I try desperately to assure her of her knowledge and prod her gently in the right direction without discouraging her. But I can see her disheartening, the fear swimming in her eyes.

When quietness finally sweeps the Supremacy’s medical bay, Syla is even more quiet. She leaves for the common area, promising to grab a quick bite to eat and then returning. I sigh, putting away the remaining immunization packets, and quickly straighten up the cold storage of this infirmary. One of the nurses accompanies Syla, the other stays behind with me and sweeps the office.

I hear the doors hiss open, and I glance up, only to feel my heart pound into my chest.

Loemi.

I drop the box in my hands, and it clatters on the floor loudly. I rush to her, tears pricking my eyes, and she grips me so tightly it hurts. She pulls back and smiles, wrinkles creasing around her eyes and mouth, and fingers the dainty chain hanging around my neck. “Of course, you visit on my day off,” she laughs, swiping a tear away from her left eye.

“I was wondering…” I start, surprised by the falter in my voice. I laugh and dab the wetness around my eyes as well. “Where’s Doctor Craine?”

“Transferred,” she says, “They needed more on Starkiller Base, now that it’s expanding.” She laughs, but it’s bittersweet. “I’m still here! All of my family left me.” I chuckle as well, unsure of what to say, just glad to be in the presence of my best friend, my sister, of seven years. I didn’t realize just how deeply I missed her until I got to see her and hear her voice again. “But enough about sad things!” she exclaims, grabbing my shoulders. “Everything is the same over here. How is the Finalizer?”

“It’s hectic,” I say, then correct myself. “Actually, it was, but it’s been slower lately. General Hux has me on field missions as well.”

Loemi’s face darkens, and her smile falters, but she keeps it on. “Field missions? Really?” She stops, knotting her brow, then continues. “How do you like those?”

“They were scary, at first,” I admit, laughing. “They’re still scary, always scary. But I feel like I’m doing more than I am just sitting in the ward, you know? I feel more proactive. I like the idea of preventing casualties instead of just cleaning up the mess, if that makes sense.”

“It does,” she grins again, but it doesn’t touch her eyes. “Just be careful, very careful. I’ve known many field nurses over my years with the Order, Mil.” She pauses, as if choosing her words carefully, and I feel my excitement fizzle into nothingness. “I don’t know many of them anymore.”

I swallow hard, and nod. I know that she’s right. I know that my missions are incredibly dangerous, and the only reason I survived the Isles was Commander Ren. I debate telling Loemi this. Telling her that I was almost killed, but rescued by the Commander, who has gone out of his way multiple times for me, that I potentially have someone watching out for me. Well, depending on his mood. I shake the thought, and remember my resolution to no longer need rescuing, to be able to be completely dependent on myself on every mission moving forward.

I open my mouth to speak, but Loemi beats me to it. “But if anyone is capable, it’s you, Mil. I don’t mean to be discouraging. I just worry about you.”

“I know,” I nod, and I push away the thoughts of Commander Ren and field missions. “Loemi, I need you to keep an eye on the new nurse, Syla.”

“I saw the report. Don’t worry, you know I’ll take her under my wing. My last prodigy is matron nurse of the Finalizer and a field nurse,” she winks at me.

Loemi remains in the medical bay with me until Syla arrives from the cafeteria, much earlier than she was permitted to. Her eyes are cast down, and she drags her feet. I introduce her to Loemi, as the new matron nurse that she will be working under.

Only a few more patients come into the medical bay for treatment during my time there, and they are all from the same mission. They are all suffering from bullet wounds. Loemi walks Syla through assessment, sanitizing the wounds, cauterizing, dressing. Her voice is soft and she is patient, and it reminds me of my first days aboard this same ship when I was younger and had no medical training. I can see Syla’s confidence building again, and she moves quicker and with more efficiency. When my holopad buzzes and informs me of the shuttle to return me to the Finalizer, Syla is grinning and giving me a hug. “Thank you,” she whispers, and I hug her again.

Loemi accompanies me on the walk to the Supremacy’s hangar. We talk and laugh, just like we used to for so many years, and when my shuttle comes into view, my heart sinks. The thought of returning to my ward, now without Syla, makes my chest feel hollow.

The door to the ship slides open, and I turn to Loemi for a final hug. She holds me tight, and when she releases, I can see something in her eyes. Something she wants to say, but she is reluctant.

“Mil,” she finally starts, as the droid pilot pokes his head to make sure I see that she ship is ready, “Doctor Craine is aboard Starkiller now, but…” She glances to the left and right, then leans in, lowering her voice. “He’s also working on something over there.”

“What do you mean?” I ask, whispering as well.

She holds my gaze. “Just… If you ever don’t want this, Mil. If you don’t want to do this anymore, reach out to me. Please. Reach out to me if it gets too scary, or too dangerous.”

I look at her, and she brushes my cheek. The droid pilot chirps behind me, ordering me to get on the ship. I turn slowly, stepping onto the shuttle, and grab onto the bar hanging from the ceiling. I look back, and Loemi waves, before the door slides shut and the shuttle hovers off of the hangar floor.

Chapter Text

Just as the shuttle touches down in the hangar, so does Commander Ren’s ship. My heart leaps into my chest as he descends his ramp at the same time I hop off my ship. His cowl billows behind him, and I notice his gaze shift my way. I start walking forward, as does he. Subconsciously, we gravitate towards each other as we approach the elevator.

“How was the Supremacy?” he asks, his mechanical voice as harsh as ever. I am not sure if he is genuinely asking or trying to talk down to me. It’s difficult to pick up on the tone of his voice through the modulator.

“Nostalgic,” I answer honestly. I think of Loemi, how happy I was to see her and vice versa. My mind sits on the offer she gave me before I left; if it could even be called an offer. I can only assume that she meant Doctor Craine is working on a way to defect from the First Order. Thinking the word makes guilt and fear pool over my body, especially in the presence of Commander Ren. Without thinking, I squeeze my eyes shut, willing away the thought. He looks at me as we walk, as if he senses my shift in mood, and I quickly add on, “I saw a really good friend, one of the nurses over there. She’s a good teacher. I’m sure Nurse S19-T01 will flourish in that medical ward.”

He nods, then turns back towards the elevator. A silence drapes over us, the sounds of our shoes hitting the floor echoing across the empty hangar. Finally, we reach the elevator doors. “How was the mission?” I ask slowly as Commander Ren jams his gloved finger onto the button.
“Enlightening,” he says simply. “Expect a message on your holopad tonight. We leave tomorrow morning.”

“For?” I ask as the elevator beeps and opens. We enter and turn to face the doors as they slide closed. We stand side by side, our shoulders almost touching.

“Greater Caledron,” he says, keeping his mask forward. He presses the button for the highest level of the Supremacy. I press Floor 6. The elevator rises. “I’m looking for something. I believe it’s there.”

I nod, and I pull my hands to my abdomen, crossing them loosely. We pass the third floor. The Commander turns to me. “Bring my medicine. It’s an overnight mission. The planet is far, almost to the Unknown Regions.”

“Yes, sir,” I say simply, returning his gaze.

The elevator beeps and opens to my floor. As I step out, Commander Ren says softly after me, “Sleep well, Nurse.”

I glance back at him, his hands now behind his back, and stare until the metallic doors obscure him from my view.

---

My feet pad slowly on cool, moist forest floor. The air is chilled, and I can feel it spread throughout my entire chest as I fill my lungs with as much as I can. I can smell the earth, the leaves, the life of this planet. Trees, taller than I’ve ever seen, surround me. I look up, and I cannot see how far they go. The tops disappear into the clouds.

I brush my fingertips along the trunk; the wood is hard and solid, and does not crumble. A small family of mushrooms sprouts from its base. I press my entire palm onto the trunk, and I can almost feel a pulse, the tree’s heartbeat, the life surging within it under my very hand.

I close my eyes, drinking in the intimacy of the moment. I can hear a creek running to my left, creatures chirping and scattering, and then footsteps behind me. I turn and see Commander Ren, in his mask, sauntering towards me. He reaches his hand out again, his fingers curling up, beckoning me towards him. “Nurse,” he says. The sound reverberates in my head.

I awaken, the sound of my alarm ringing throughout my quarters. I throw my blanket off, traipsing to my holopad to shut it off. As promised, I was met with a message from General Hux by the time I had reached the door to my quarters. I am to meet him on Floor 5, Room 11, for a briefing for another field nurse assignment.

After closing my holopad, I saunter towards the shower and slowly strip off my casuals. I flick on the water, running a hand through my hair as I wait for it to get hot. I cannot help but feel excitement tingle to my fingertips and adrenaline pumping through my veins at the opportunity of another mission. I quickly scrub my body and wash my hair.

Once I feel entirely clean, I exit the shower and drape a towel over myself, drying off quickly. I don my jumpsuit, strapping on my holster and backpack, then slipping on my boots. I pull my hair back, then tuck the silver chain around my neck under the fabric of the suit.

I leave early so I can stop by the medical bay and make more medicine for Commander Ren. The door slides open; three stormtroopers and the nurses attending them glace towards me at the sound. I smile as I walk past, then enter the Doctor’s office. He is not there, so I leave a note and toss the two tubs of medicine into my bag.

This briefing room is even colder than the previous ones I’ve visited, and smaller. There are only six chairs around a circular metal table. Per usual, I take a place towards the back of the table. General Hux stands up front, speaking to the stormtrooper Captain, and they are the only other souls in the room with me. At 0732, Commander Ren enters, pulling out the chair next to me and sliding into it. He does not look my way.

“Ren,” General Hux starts, turning away from the Captain. The Captain takes his seat across from me, but the General remains standing. “Are you sure this is where the information is?”

“Yes.” His reply is sharp and quick.

“How?” General Hux prods.

“Yesterday, I met with our allies on the moon of Doxan. After the surprise attack on Izo Ankora, the Resistance refueled and a conversation was overheard. This was immediately reported to us. I was able to confirm the allegations through data confiscated from Zslonoth.”

“And the Supreme Leader approved this?” the General raises his eyebrows.

“We are in a mission briefing, aren’t we?” Commander Ren crosses his arms.

General Hux scowls. “I apologize for doubting you intuition, Ren. The success of your last mission escaped me momentarily.” I notice the Commander’s shoulders stiffen, but he does not respond. General Hux continues. “As you can see, only Captain FO-479 and Nurse M17-L33 are sitting in with us today. You are not getting an entire squadron this time; only four troopers will be accompanying you. It is the wish of the Supreme Leader that we minimize the amount of personnel on operations until your track record improves.”

“Noted,” Commander Ren quips, pushing his chair back loudly and standing. “Any other questions?”

“When are you planning on departing?”

“Immediately.”

The General nods, then turns back to Captain FO-479. “Prepare your men and meet in the hangar to board Commander Ren’s ship.”

“Yes, sir,” the Captain salutes, then turns and exits the briefing room.

Feeling conspicuous as the only one sitting, I rise out of my chair as well. General Hux grabs his holopad and tucks it under his arm, then nods to me as he walks briskly out of the room as well. Commander Ren turns to me. “Come, Nurse.”

I fall in line behind him as we make our way towards the elevator, boarding it and ordering it to the hangar of the Supremacy. Commander Ren keeps his head forward, chin slightly raised. He still doesn’t face me when he asks, “Do you have any questions?”

“What exactly are we doing?” I ask as the elevator begins to drop.

“There is a man who used to be very powerful, that the Resistance is trying to locate. It is imperative that we find him first. Greater Caledron hosts a plethora of smugglers, bounty hunters, brokers.” The elevator beeps and opens, and Commander Ren storms towards his ship. The hangar droids and lower ranking pilots instinctively dart out of his way. I hurry my steps to keep up, and the Commander cocks his head slightly back to keep talking to me. “There is a man there who has supposedly done business with him in the past, and his location will be in his archives. He has been in communication with the Resistance, who has offered his protection in exchange for the information. After this mission, he will have neither.”

The ramp hisses open and descends towards us. Commander Ren storms aboard, tossing back over his shoulder, “Do you have everything you need?”

“Yes,” I confirm, following behind him onto the ship.

I am greeted by the familiar sight of the metal table and three doors that make up the lobby of Commander Ren’s ship. He approaches the pilot’s cabin, pausing in the doorway. “It will be hours before we reach Greater Caledron,” he starts, glancing back at me. I pause at the edge of the table. “Do you need to rest?”

“Possibly,” I say softly, twiddling my fingers on the surface of the table.

“You do not have to use the dormitory if you do not wish to. Your cot is still set up in my quarters, if you would like to utilize it.”

“I would, thank you.”

He nods, then disappears through the doorway. I trudge over to the door to the right and stand before it; Commander Ren’s quarters are revealed to me. The cot to my left immediately catches my eyes, and I slip my backpack off and sit on the edge of it. The second my body is able to rest against the stiff mattress, I feel my eyelids droop down and my head feels heavy. I kick off my boots and holster, placing them on the ground, and curl my body onto the small cot.

Through the metal door, I am able to hear the stormtroopers boarding the ship. After a few minutes, the ship powers to life. We rise slowly, then glide out of the hangar and into the vastness of space. As always, the ride is bumpy at first, then steadies out as we increase our distance from the First Order fleet ships. My eyes sting, so I close them, letting them relax. The ship cradles me, gently rocking me into a soft slumber.

“Nurse.” The sound of Commander Ren calling me jolts me out of my sleep. My eyes shoot open, and for the first time, I actually find him, sitting on the edge of the bed, elbows resting on his knees. “I apologize,” he starts, and I think this is the first time I have ever heard a phrase remotely close to that come from the Commander. “But I want to get the last treatment, before we arrive.”

I blink, drinking in his words. Finally, I sit up, rubbing my eyes. “Sure,” I concede, swinging my legs off the side of the cot to dig through my backpack. I grab the two tubs, standing and walking to the washroom and flicking the light on. The bathroom has black drawers, a metallic medicine cabinet, a dark silver toilet. I stare at my reflection in the mirror, hair a mess, bags under my eyes, and idly holding two tubs of medicine. “Do you have something I can stir with?” I call out to him.

“Top drawer.”

I pull it open to reveal dark plastic swabs, among other various washroom items. I pull one out and section off the medicine I need. As I stir, I hear the door to Commander Ren’s quarters lock, and the hiss of his mask being removed. It thuds softly onto the bed. The thought of seeing his bare face sets my chest on fire.

I emerge from the bathroom. He is still in the same position, now with raven black hair framing his porcelain face. My eyes meet his and my body freezes, momentarily forgetting where I am and what I’m supposed to be doing.

The feeling of the plastic in my hand brings me back, and I dart over to my backpack and retrieve a pair of gloves. I sit on the bed next to him, swirling my finger in the cool salve. The scar has lost all of its color, and now is just a divot snaking across his face, an outline of its former self. One more treatment, and it should be gone.

I scoot a bit closer, reaching out to him with my gloved hand. I trace the medicine along the scar, making sure to cover it completely. His eyes are downcast, occasionally glancing up to meet mine, but always finding their way back to the ebony sheets. I see his dark lips part, and I can’t help but to stare down at them when they move.

“There,” I say, finishing up along the crease that sits above his eye. “You won’t be able to see any trace of the scar after this.” I stand, screwing the lid back onto the tub and returning it to my backpack.

“Thank you.” His voice is smooth and silken. I smile at him, then find my seat back on the cot. “We still have a few hours before we arrive,” Commander Ren says, standing up and grabbing his helmet. He holds it by his side. “You can go back to sleep, if you wish.”

“Okay, thank you.” I curl back into myself, closing my eyes.

I hear the Commander place his helmet back onto the bed, then his boots walking across the floor, and I hear a door swoosh open. I hear a rummaging sound, and then the Commander approaches me. I nearly jump when he unfurls a blanket, letting it glide softly down over my body. I open my eyes in time to catch his. He holds my gaze for a second, before reaching for the band securing my hair and pulling it out gently and slowly. I feel my hair cascade along the pillow, and he runs a gloved hand over it, shaking loose the knots. He swallows. “I will be in the pilot’s cabin, if you need anything.”

I stare up at him, and I feel my brow knot. The crown of my head is electrified by his touch. I feel my palms break a sweat under the blanket. “Okay,” I respond, my voice sounding surprisingly faint and dry. “Thank you.”

Commander Ren does not respond, instead reaching for his helmet and placing it back onto his head. Then, he exits. I cannot fall asleep until my racing heart is finally able to steady itself.

---

When I awaken, I can already feel that the ship is moving significantly slower than before. I groan, pulling myself off the tiny cot, and quickly redress myself. I trudge to the mirror, pull my hair back into a low bun, and then sling my backpack over my shoulders.

Since nobody is in the ship’s lobby, I immediately turn to my right and enter the cockpit. Commander Ren is sitting in the pilot’s chair, Captain FO-479 standing at his side. Their eyes appear to be glued forward.

I walk into the room, towards the left so I can see out the window of the ship. There, taking up almost the entire view, is a blue and green planet, with swirls of white clouds. And there, off in the distance, is a Resistance fleet ship.

I feel my blood turn to ice and I rush forward, gawking at the sight. “Commander.” The word slips out of my mouth before I even realize it, formed as a question: What do we do?

He turns to me for the briefest moment, then whips back to his controls, pressing a few buttons and slowly pushing a lever forward. “We will get the data,” he says simply, to both me and the Captain, “I have been told I can be quite persuasive. Captain, get the troopers ready.”

“Yes, sir,” he says, then quickly disappears into the lobby. I turn to join him, but am stopped by Commander Ren’s voice.

“Nurse.”

“Commander,” I respond, pivoting back to face him.

He spins in his chair, his oil black mask meeting my eyes. “I know I’ve said this on every one of our missions together, but I mean it this time.” His voice lowers. “Heed my orders. Do not deviate from the group. Do your job.”

I sigh, nodding. “Yes, sir.” I know he means it, and I know I need to concede. If I had listened to him on the Isles, the young trooper and Captain GD-294 would still be here. My heart surges, thinking of their lifeless bodies, and Loemi’s words resonate in my mind. If you don’t want to do this anymore, reach out to me.

Commander Ren holds my gaze, and the sinking feeling is replaced by a surge of adrenaline. So far, I do still want to do this. It’s not too scary or dangerous yet. The Commander turns back to the window, pulling another lever, sending us charging towards Greater Caledron.

Chapter Text

Commander Ren directs us to a large city, one that expands farther than I can see once we break the line of clouds, and lands us in a commercial port. As soon as the landing gear touch the gray surface, he stands and charges towards the exit. I follow him into the lobby and watch as he descends the ramp. I glance at Captain FO-479, but he does not return my gaze, instead falling in line behind Commander Ren. I join them.

Inside the hangar, droids and beings alike freeze at the sight of a First Order ship docking without warning or even permission. I lock eyes with them, see the fear and anticipation wracking their bodies. Some stare back in defiance, brows knotted, arms crossed. As the main doors slide open, revealing Greater Caledron to us, a small woman behind a desk attempts to shout a welcome. Nobody but me even looks her way.

This planet, the first in my experience, has a pleasant and mild atmosphere. The sun hides behind light gray clouds, and a cool breeze runs down the narrow street. We are surrounded by the bustling of beings of every size, shape, race; and every single one of them darts out of the way of Commander Ren as he charges down the alley. It is crowded, noisy, and fast-paced. Most of the citizens stop their business to gawk as we walk past, breaking up arguments, trade deals, casual conversations. I power walk to the Commander’s right, occasionally having to break into a run when he gets too far ahead. Captain FO-479 strides beside me, to the Commander’s left, and the troopers trail behind us.

It is clear that Commander Ren knows exactly where he is going, and he makes no attempt to hide his presence. He whips around corners, walking in a direct line and shoving past anyone who doesn’t get out of his way. We all follow in silence behind him, blasters in our hands.

The sun begins to set, and signs on the buildings illuminate the streets, casting them in a hazy blue glow. People retreat into apartments or bars. Commander Ren makes his final turn, storming towards a black door, barely visible on the dark side of a building. It is quickly engulfed in red as Commander Ren’s lightsaber comes to life. He rips the door to the side with a flick of his wrist.

A man is sitting at a desk in the left corner, typing quickly into a computer. He jumps up, knocking over his chair and the glass that was sitting near his hand. The clear liquid spreads across the floor, reflecting the blood red glow of the saber. He immediately puts his hands in the air as we raise our blasters.

“You’re too late,” he says quickly, his words quivering. His raspy voice compliments the light dusting of gray hair atop his head and his weathered, calloused hands. “They knew you were coming.”

“Is that so?” Commander Ren starts, stalking towards the man, boots splashing in the spilled liquid. The man instinctively backs away, but keeps his eyes glued on the Commander. “So there’s nothing on that computer that would be of value to the First Order?”

“It’s all been destroyed. After being given to the Resistance. Your reign won’t last, Commander. It’s a losing fight.”

The Commander scoffs, twirling his saber in his hand. “I don’t believe you,” he says simply.

“Believe it,” the man retorts, spitting on the ground. “They beat you to it.”

“It was my understanding, and presumably yours as well, that you were providing this information in exchange for ‘protection’ from the First Order for hiding information on a wanted man.” Commander Ren glances around the room, then takes another step towards the man. “Yet, here we are. Here I am.” He swings the saber again, and it hums loudly. I readjust my grip on my blaster as I watch, rolling my neck. “So either they lied to you then, or you’re lying to me now. Which is it?”

The man gulps, looks to side, licks his lips: realizing his mistake. I think of the Resistance fleet ship hovering on the opposite side of the planet, and I wonder if they were truly leaving, or are on their way now. I glance to the open entry way that Commander Ren blew through, scanning the shadows for movement.

“Which is it?” the Commander asks again when he doesn’t receive a response. Captain FO-479 steps forward, aiming his weapon at the man’s head. “Either way, you lose. You will surrender the data to me, or you will die for a Resistance that claimed to protect you, and I will eventually get the information I want, just with more casualties.”

The man’s lip trembles, and I see tears pooling in his eyes. “Ben,” he says softly. The Commander stops in his tracks, shoulders tense, frozen. I stare at the man. Ben? He shakes his head slowly, “Don’t do this.”

Captain FO-479 turns his head to the Commander, waiting to see what he will do. He remains still for a few more seconds, then raises his head slightly, and spins the saber a final time before slicing the old man in half. Just before impact, realization and heartbreak morph onto the man’s face before his lifeless body cripples to the floor. A trooper behind me rushes forward and grabs the computer, using a device similar to the stormtrooper on the Isles to strip the data from the machine. The others turn back towards the door, while Commander Ren stares forward, chest heaving.

Green shots slice through the air and into the room, one hitting a stormtrooper in the right shoulder. He cries out, and Commander Ren whips around, hand raised. A Rebel man flies through the door, grabbing at his throat, as the Commander slices through him as well. My heart beats painfully as I raise my weapon, getting ready to protect the trooper at the computer. This one, I resolve, will make it back. We all will.

Commander Ren exits to the left, and several Resistance members fire, their bodies illuminated eerily with each shot that rings out. The sun is gone, replaced with a yellow moon, and the Rebels are barely visible. The Commander raises his hand again, stopping the blasts in mid air, then sending them hurdling back towards the men. They scream on impact.

I follow the Commander out of the building but turn to the right, leading with my weapon. A stormtrooper joins me, and we fire into the darkness at the shadows, revealing the location of the Rebels. They fire back, but this trooper is quick, taking out three of them in his next shots. I land two shots, taking down a Resistance man. I can hear Commander Ren’s lightsaber, crackling as it moves, a powerful downward motion over and over again. The sounds of the city have entirely evaporated and are replaced by an eerie silence, broken only by the shouts and grunts, humming and slicing of weapons, and heavy, hurried footsteps of our alleyway.

“Nurse!”

Captain FO-479 appears beside me, firing his weapon rapidly. “Tend to the trooper inside.”

“Yes, sir,” I say quickly, ducking down and back into the building. The injured stormtrooper is kneeling, pressing his hand onto the wound on his arm. The trooper at the computer glances at me, then continues his work. I rip my backpack off, rummaging through quickly and ripping open a sanitation wipe. The trooper pulls his armor back enough for me to slip my hand inside and begin to clean his wound.

After the wound is sterilized, I place a bacta patch onto it and press down. Thankfully, the blast was fired from far away, and had time to dissipate before making contact with his shoulder; it is not deep or wide. As I am finishing up, the other trooper rips the cartridge out of the computer. “I’ve got it all,” he says triumphantly, putting the data into his belt and helping the wounded trooper stand.

We exit the building for the final time together, and the Rebels are dwindling down. The bodies lay strewn across the empty streets, blood pooling towards the center. The last men remaining attempt to retreat, a few firing back as they go, Commander Ren deflecting the shots and pinning a few back onto them. The last Resistance member cries out in pain as he is thrown against the steel building with just a wave of the Commander’s arm.

He turns back to us, shoulders rising and falling, and nods his head. “Let’s go,” he commands, and we all fall in line behind him as he heads back down the street and towards the main strip.

I catch a few silhouettes of beings watching us from inside their homes. A few of them dart away when my head turns in their direction. Commander Ren winds us down the same path as before, and the hangar looms into view. As we approach it, the Commander stops dead in his tracks, and Captain FO-479 almost slams into him. We watch him as he stares ahead, unmoving, and I jump when his mechanical voice bellows, “Go ahead onto the ship.”

The Captain and stormtroopers immediately march forward, brushing past us and heading into the hangar building. I stay where I am, rooted to the spot, staring at Commander Ren in confusion. “Go, Nurse,” he quips, still facing the hangar doors. “You said you would heed my orders this mission; let’s not ruin a successful operation.” His voice is laced with irritation and apprehension, so I nod and walk slowly past him.

“Ben!”

I whip around at the mention of the name again, but Commander Ren remains facing me. Behind him, in a soft brown jacket, is an older, beautiful woman with thick gray hair piled into a braid atop her head. She stares at Commander Ren, her lips pressed together, eyebrows creased. My eyes dart between her, with her intense eyes locked onto the Commander, and him, his body frozen.

After what feels like hours, Commander Ren turns to face her, body rigid. He says nothing, fists clenching and unclenching. My breath catches in my throat. He takes a step, and I suddenly feel conspicuous, like I’m sitting in on a moment that I don’t belong in.

Movement catches the corner of my eyes, and I turn to see a Resistance member approaching us in an alleyway to the right, crouched low. He sees the Commander, and raises his weapon slowly, settling his back against the wall to steady his aim.

“Commander!” I scream, the cry bubbling up from my lungs before I could even think. He whips back to face me, then his mask snaps to the man just as his blaster fires. In one fluid motion, his lightsaber is ignited and absorbs the shot. Then, he shoves his hand forward, and the man is catapulted backwards, his body cracking against the building.

The woman rushes forward to see down the alleyway, then back to Commander Ren, her jaw dropped slightly, shaking her head. The Commander storms towards me, the lightsaber disappearing at his side. His arm snakes around my back, pulling me with him as the doors to the hangar slide open and grant us entrance. I glance back at the woman, her hand reached out to us, as the doors close and rip her from my view.

Commander Ren’s ship is already powered on, and we dart up the ramp. It closes behind us, and he leads me to his quarters with his arm still gripping my back. “I’ll be there shortly,” he quips, then disappears out the door again.

I let my backpack slide off my shoulders and plop onto the floor, then take a seat at the edge of my cot. I feel the ship rise and dart off into space, rocking slightly as we exit the atmosphere of Greater Caledron.

In a few minutes, Commander Ren emerges from the sliding door to his quarters. He flicks his hand backwards, and I hear the door lock. He presses the buttons on the jaw of his mask, and it hisses as he rips it off of his head. He throws it against the floor, and the loud clanking noise makes me jump as he enters the washroom. His hair clings to the sides of his face, damp with sweat, and he leans forward at the sink, staring downward. His hands grip the metal sides.

I remain on the edge of the cot, not sure what to do or say. Finally, he returns to the bedroom, opening the closet and retrieving a stack of clothes. He takes them with him into the washroom, closing and locking the door behind him.

I sigh, reaching forward and pulling my boots off of my aching feet. I take off my holster and gloves, laying everything in a neat pile at the foot of my cot. I then lean back, pulling the same blanket over my body, and settle against my pillow. I place my hand under my head, feeling the ship rocking gently, and realize that everyone made it back, and the mission was successful. We got the data we needed; there were no casualties. I smile to myself, a small grin that cracks my face only slightly.

The door to the washroom opens, and I can tell by the aroma that fills the room that he has just taken a shower. I roll over and see he is wearing casuals: a thin gray shirt with loose black pants. He locks eyes with me, then swallows. “Would you like to use the washroom?” His natural voice sounds deeper than it usually does.

“Yes, thank you,” I respond, rising from the cot.

He walks to the closet and grabs another stack of clothes, identical to the ones he has on now. “There are fresh towels in the bottom drawer.”

I nod, then make my way to the washroom. I turn on the water, disrobing and stepping into the warm spray. It feels strange to bathe while the floor beneath me sways with the movement of the ship. More than once, I have to steady myself with a hand pressed against the washroom wall. Commander Ren’s soap smells similar to mine, but slightly muskier and less light and airy. I run it over my body, muscles relaxing under the heat of the water. I sigh, remaining under the water long after the soap has been washed away. As always, after a field mission is completed and the adrenaline has passed, sleepiness sits on my head and shoulders. I finally gain the strength to shut off the stream and wrap myself in one of the Commander’s black towels.

Once my body is dry, I slip into the Commander’s casuals. They are remarkably soft and cling to me loosely. I reenter the bedroom, where he is tucked under the silken sheets, eyes closed. I pad back to the cot, lifting the blanket to slide underneath it.

“Nurse.” The Commander’s voice reverberates in the quiet room. I look at him, and he pulls himself up to rest on his elbows. My eyes travel across his chest, broad and hard, and down his arms, flexing as they support his body. He swallows, glancing down at the ground, then locks eyes with me. “You do not have to utilize the cot, if you don’t want to.”

At first, my brow knots in confusion, thinking he is kicking me out and condemning me back to the dormitory. Then, realization settles over me, and I feel my mouth run dry. I stare at the empty space in the bed, my hands quivering. Without thinking, I walk slowly to the bed, slipping under the black sheets. I settle into the pillow, facing the washroom, my body tense. I can feel the heat from Commander Ren’s body behind me, and goosebumps race down my neck and back.

Just as sleep begins to take me, I feel the Commander shift in the bed. My pillow rises slightly, and I open my eyes to see it’s his arm. Suddenly, I feel a warm hand on my hip, sliding forward and wrapping underneath my body. My chest sets fire as he pulls me towards him, pressing my back against his chest. I can’t help but to audibly gasp at the touch.

“I’m sorry,” he says quietly, his grip loosening. “I shouldn’t have.”

As he begins to pull away, my heart drops into my stomach. “No, it’s alright,” I say quickly, and he pulls me into him again. I can feel his breath on the back of my neck, and my heart beats painfully against my chest. My body feels alight, my fingers and toes tingling. I try desperately to steady my breathing, yet it still shudders under his touch.

Something about him feels vulnerable and stressed, something I have never seen of him before. Ever since the mention of the other name, of Ben, he seems different, his focus and bravado lost. I have never seen the Commander thrown off so easily, his focus so skewed.

“Commander,” I say softly, just in case he has fallen asleep.

“You don’t have to call me that,” he responds, his voice low and husky. It vibrates against my neck, sending goosebumps down my back once again. “When we’re alone, you can call me Kylo.”

I nod, reeling over the fact that he expects there to be more times that we are alone together. I try to force away the thoughts that are beating down my mind, thoughts of his eyes watching me as I spread the medicine along his wound, of him rescuing me from the storage room, the rage in his voice when I was grabbed by the stormtrooper in the medical ward. The memories and emotions swirl around in my mind, intensified by the feeling of his fingertips on my bare skin. I swallow, trying to clear my mind, then manage to spit out, “Who is Ben? Why did they call you that?”

Kylo stiffens, drawing in a long breath. I hear his lips part, before he finally utters, “Someone who died years ago. They were mistaken.”

Chapter Text

I am awakened by my own body shivering against the cold sheets.

My eyes flutter open. The Commander’s quarters on his ship slowly focus before me, and I momentarily forget where I am. I sit up, glancing around the room, to find that he is gone, the bed made neatly behind me. I can also tell that the ship is no longer moving.

I curse under my breath and throw off the dark silken blanket, darting towards the cot where my jumpsuit and tools lay. I redress quickly, glancing back towards the door and praying that no one hears me or tries to enter. I pull my hair back into a bun and walk towards the door. It hisses open, revealing an empty lobby.

I take a quick peek to the left and right, before marching into the lobby as if I had every business being in the Commander’s quarters. I smash my hand against the auto-lock button, and the ramp crawls open, making as much noise at it ever has. I feel my cheeks flush, but thankfully, the hangar is empty, save for a few droids working on the fighter jets. I walk quickly towards the elevator, jamming my finger on the button and tapping my foot as I wait for the cart.

When it opens before me, four stormtroopers stand, nodding at me as they exit and I enter. Somehow, I feel as though they know where I’ve been, and embarrassment tugs at my heart. When the sliding door closes and the cart creeps up towards my quarters, I release a breath I didn’t realize I was holding.

I don’t run into anyone else as I head towards my quarters, and I silently wonder what time it is. What time was it when we left Greater Caledron? How long was I asleep in the Commander’s bed? My mind reels at the thought of sleeping next to him, his strong arm draped around my body and holding me close, his warm breath on my neck. I shudder at the thought as the door to my room glides open.

I retrieve my holopad from my backpack, then toss the bag to the side and sit on my bed. Upon flicking it open, I can see it is 0400, which would explain the lack of life in the corridors and hangar. I have two messages, one from Dr. Iyshaak and the other from General Hux. Dr. Iyshaak explains that I do not have to report to the medical ward tomorrow, or well now today, if I choose not to, which is the usual message I receive after operations. The other, from the General, rattles me:

Nurse M17-L33:

It has come to the attention of Supreme Leader Snoke and myself that during the operation on Greater Calderon, Commander Ren was in contact with General Leia Organa of the Resistance, with whom he has previous affiliations. If any behavior was suspicious, unusual, or alarming in any instance, please report it to me so that it can be addressed. It is my hope that nothing needs to be relayed to the Supreme Leader regarding this situation.

I stare at the screen, eyebrows knotted, blinking. What previous affiliations would Commander Ren have with a general from the Resistance? I remember his confidence being swayed by the mention of another name, Ben, by both the Rebel man and who I assume to be the general that Hux is referring to. The name, according to the Commander, was not him but someone they have confused him with. Could General Hux and the Supreme Leader also be confusing him with someone else? I shake my head at the thought, there is no way that Supreme Leader Snoke would have a mistake of that magnitude. Would that mean that Kylo really is Ben? Or was Ben? And that he lied?

I know that Commander Ren’s sway of focus and the moment that I witnessed between him and this General Organa was suspicious and definitely unusual. My finger hovers over the keyboard. But I can’t bring myself to type the words. It feels wrong, like I’m betraying the Commander. I wasn’t supposed to see, I was ordered into the ship and I stayed. Whatever previous affiliations he had, they were overcome.

Would Commander Ren do the same, if I had acted suspiciously on a mission? That, I do not know, but seeing as he has gone out of his way to make sure I return from every operation, choosing to ignore the intimate moment seems like the least that I can do.

I type quickly, explaining that nothing at all seemed amiss and I was surprised to learn that the Commander had any past relations with the Resistance. After it’s sent, I toss my holopad back onto the bed and head towards the washroom. My hair is a mess from falling asleep with it wet on the ship. My stomach flutters at the thought. I shake my head, turning on the shower and hopping in.

Since it’s so early in the morning, I pray that the warm waters will relax my body and let me rest for just a few more hours. However, that is not the case, and I feel awake and rejuvenated. I decide, with reluctance, that my energy should get some use. I exit the shower, pull my hair into a loose braid, and dress into my black scrubs. I tuck the ever present necklace from Loemi under my top and pull on my oil-black jacket, exiting my quarters.

Since it is closer to 0500, the wake up call for most of the lower ranking First Order members, there are many more troopers marching throughout the halls on my way to the medical bay. When I enter, I notice a stormtrooper laying on Table 7, and I realize it’s the same one from my mission, recovering from his blaster wound. He nods at me as I approach him. “Nurse. Thank you for your assistance in the field.”

“How are you feeling?” I ask softly, sticking my hands in my jacket pockets and leaning over to get a look at his bandaged arm.

“Much better. All I needed was a complete dressing and some pain medicine. I should be discharged in a little bit, right?”

I step back so that I can see the holopad sitting above the table. I quickly type in my identification number so I can access his records, and I nod. “Yes, looks like you’re good to go at 0600 as long as complications don’t arise.” I smile at him. “I think you’ll manage another hour.”

He returns the grin, then lays his head back down onto his pillow. I fluff it for him, then make my way back to the office. There is another stormtrooper, a burn victim, at the very last table closest to the office. I check his vitals and change out his fluid bag. As I do, Ginn enters from the other side. “Good morning!” she calls out, and I return the greeting.

The next few hours are nothing short of a typical day in the Finalizer’s medical ward. Dr. Iyshaak arrives, on the dot of exactly how late he can be without getting a citation, as well as three other nurses. We dismiss the trooper from my operation, checking on the burned soldier every thirty minutes. Five new troopers, stragglers from the new squadron that was treated a few days ago, come in for evaluations and immunizations. Typically, on menial tasks such as these, I would hang back and supervise the other nurses, make sure that every step is performed accurately and efficiently. But today, I feel restless, and I find myself doing most of the work on every stormtrooper that comes in.

After the immunizations, a few minor injuries from the nearest outpost arrive, along with their Captain who ordered supplies to be taken back with them. They are all from the hazardous conditions of the gas-filled plant that they’re from, such as knicks and fractures from the heavy machinery they work with or sickness from breathing in the atmosphere without a mask. They are gone in two hours, and with nothing else to do, I take inventory of cold and dry storage and organize it yet again. A flash of irritation surges through me. I feel as though I just did this, yet I return and the cabinets and cooling unit look as though someone rummaged through it with the lights off.

“Nurse,” Dr. Iyshaak starts, his hands behind his head as he leans back in his desk chair. “Don’t you think you’re overworking yourself?”

I shake my head, smiling coyly. “I actually got a good amount of sleep on the return from Greater Caledron,” I say simply, spinning a vial so I can see what medicine it is. It’s Bioxine, a skin regenerator, and it’s the last bottle we have. I mark it on the holopad to order another case.

“Well, that’s good,” he says simply, “I’ve heard those beds on the operation crafts are shit. I can imagine though, having to cram so many into a small space for all those troopers. Maybe they’re all just acting like younglings, though.”

My cheeks flush, realizing that Dr. Iyshaak thinks I slept in the dormitory. I turn away from him, to the cabinets on the left of the cold storage unit, and my eyes scan the bottles, not really reading them. “Mhm.” I agree.

The door to the infirmary hisses open, and Dr. Iyshaak stands and exits the office to greet them. I blow out a breath through my nose, trying to shove away the thoughts of sleeping in the Commander’s bed, and actually start to take inventory of the cabinet before me.

“I believe you’re mistaken,” I hear Dr. Iyshaak say, “We already have a matron nurse, M17-L33.” My ears pique, and I stop reading to listen.

“Nurse M17-L33 has been reassigned. I am here to replace her,” a familiar voice retorts. My heart leaps into my throat. I throw down the holopad and dart into the ward.

My eyes meet Loemi’s, whose face is stone cold as she looks at Dr. Iyshaak. When she realizes it’s me, her face melts, and tears pool in her eyes. She rushes past him, grabbing my shoulders and squeezing them tightly. She blinks away her tears. “Mil,” she says, voice quivering. “I thought—I didn’t think—” She stops, her brows knotting.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“I received a memo this morning that I was assuming the role of matron nurse on the Finalizer,” she says quickly, and swallows. “They said you had been reassigned and to report to the medical ward as soon as possible. I thought—” Loemi stops again, her eyes flicking towards Dr. Iyshaak, who is watching with confusion painted on his face. She steps so that the Doctor is behind her, and she lowers her voice. “You know what we suspect about reassignments, Mil. I was devastated.”

“Loemi.” My heart beats painfully against my chest. I feel panic rising in my throat. “I haven’t heard anything about being reassigned. I returned from an operation last night, and came here for my shift.”

“What?” she asks, crossing her arms. “What is going on, then?”

I rush back into the office and retrieve my holopad, accessing my messages and scanning through them. Nothing new. Nothing that I’ve missed. My mouth runs dry.

I hear the doors to the medical bay open again. I return to Loemi and Dr. Iyshaak, who are saluting as General Hux strides past the other nurses huddled by one of the operating tables and towards us. He smiles, his eyes locked onto me. All I can do is stare, limply holding onto my holopad.

“M17-L33,” he chimes, lifting his chin up. I instinctively give him a quick bow. He nods to Loemi and Dr. Iyshaak, then his gaze returns to me. “Would you come with me, please? I would like to discuss something with you.”

“Yes, sir,” I respond, tucking my holopad under my arm. He turns on his heel and exits, arms swinging casually by his sides. I walk after him, stiff as a board, and we exit the infirmary.

He guides us to the right, towards the elevators, and presses a button. We enter the cart and stand side by side, he presses a button for the second highest level, then he places his hands behind his back. He keeps his head lifted and facing forward as he speaks, “Unfortunately, your friend may have ruined the surprise for you. But the Supreme Leader has reviewed the reports on your field missions thus far, and is very pleased.”

The elevator dings and we exit, striding down a long, silver-gray corridor. I notice it is similar to the hallway my quarters are on, but the doors are farther apart and the locks seem more sophisticated. General Hux remains a half step ahead of me, leading us down the hall and turning at the first left, where a silver door sits on its own. He stands beside it, turning back towards me. “Would you kindly open the door to your quarters, Nurse?”

It takes my brain a few seconds to register what he’s asking me to do. I step forward, unsure of myself, and stare at the lock. It’s a bright white square, about the size of a bacta patch, this a small red glowing dot underneath. I swipe my hand across it, as I would with my room, but nothing happens.

“With your thumb, Nurse,” General Hux clarifies. “It can only be opened with your print.”

I press my thumb onto the illuminated square, which is warm to the touch. The red dot blinks once, then turns green, and the door slides open. Inside is a room that is three times the size of my quarters. The bed is larger, in the center of the left wall, with a nightstand on each side. In the middle of the room is a small table, with a black sofa on the other side and facing the bed. Behind the sofa is a row of cabinets and bookshelves built into the metal wall. And directly across from me, instead of a wall, is a glass window overlooking space. The blackness of the galaxy makes the black furniture pale in comparison. There is a small table with two chairs in the back right corner of the room, directly against the glass. The sight overwhelms me, and my breath catches in my throat.

“What do you think?” General Hux asks, stepping into the room. I follow behind him, then freeze, unsure of what to do with myself. Confusion engulfs me, morphing into irritation. Something about this feels wrong. Like I’m being played with. The General glances back at me, smiling. “Much bigger than your old quarters, right? That view is to die for.”

“Yes,” I nod.

“Your things were gathered and moved up here, in that bag.” He tosses his head to the wall behind us, where my duffel bag lays.

“I…” I lick my lips, swallowing and starting again. “Why was… why am I living here now?”

“Well, as you know, the matron nurse position has been filled. The Supreme Leader saw great potential in you, and has decided to delegate the entirety of the First Order’s medical operations to you.” General Hux sits down on the sofa, resting his arm on the back of it. “It’s a new position, something we want to try out. You’ll be in charge of operation delegations, making sure each bay is meeting quotas, reassignments. You’ll direct all of it. Your title will be Medical Director, but this level is for captains and lower ranking generals. The one above you is for a handful of generals, namely myself, and the Commander.”

“Why me?” I ask, and I feel a twinge of skepticism in my voice. I try to correct it. “Why wouldn’t one of the doctors do this, or one of those generals, or any other nurse?”

“The doctors used to make most of the decisions. Well, sort of.” He leans back, readjusting. “We used to receive weekly reports from them with the statistics of their infirmaries, as well as their suggestions for placements. As you can imagine, that got political very quickly. The Supreme Leader believes you are knowledgeable and responsible enough to have a clear mind as far as decisions for delegations, reassignments, improvements, so on. Further, and with no disrespect, someone who filled this position could not be one of our doctors, as their medical training is essential to the medical wards.”

I pull away from his gaze, staring instead into the vastness of space. I see a carrier sailing away towards the left. It seems so slow, like it’s barely moving. It feels so different to actually be on board. I cross my arms. “I just don’t understand why I’m getting the position. I’m feel like I’m too young, too inexperienced.”

I hear General Hux shift on the sofa so that he is facing me. “If I were you, I would keep that opinion to myself, especially in the presence of other high-ranked officials. Openly doubting yourself, and even worse the decisions of the Supreme Leader, will not work out favorably for you. That, I can assure you of.” I hear him stand, his boots clicking as he approaches me. He stands behind me and grips my shoulder, tightly, to where it almost hurts. “Say thank you, and do your job, Director.”

The title sounds weird and foreign, and sends a shiver up my spine. Hux releases me, starting towards the door, then stops and turns around. “Oh, also, you won’t be wearing the general nursing scrubs anymore. Your closet has been filled with more appropriate attire for your position. I don’t want to see you dressed like this again. If all goes as planned, this will be a position that others will strive to achieve. Treat it with dignity and respect, please.”

I turn to watch him leave, and as the door slides open to allow him to exit, it reveals Commander Ren turning the corner towards my quarters. When he catches sight of General Hux, he freezes. “Hello Commander,” General Hux smiles, enjoying the irritation that he is causing. “I was just showing our new Medical Director her living space.”

“How kind,” the Commander’s voice is laced with agitation, “It also appears that you are leaving. Don’t let me apprehend you. I have some proposals I’d like to go over with M17.”

“Of course,” he nods and walks past Commander Ren, just barely missing brushing his shoulder. The Commander enters, the door closing behind him, and we are alone. His presence in the room is very different from the General’s; I feel an electricity in the air, sending goosebumps down my flesh. I hear the familiar hiss and click of his helmet being removed, and he clanks it on the table. He walks to stand beside me, arms crossed as well, and I look at him. There is no trace of the blackened burn that was once racing across his skin. Now, all I see is porcelain skin with a constellation of moles. He turns to me, lips parting, and asks, “What do you think of this?”

The husky sound of his natural voice makes me draw in a breath. “It’s overwhelming,” I answer truthfully, and Kylo nods, ever so slightly. Despite the warning I just received from Hux, I want to tell Kylo how I feel, to know his honest opinion. “I don’t think I’m qualified for this. I don’t understand it.”

“The Supreme Leader sees things that we cannot see, and understands more than we do,” Kylo responds, his voice low and soft. “Before he recruited me, I was in an environment where I could not flourish to my true potential. Now, I am the Commander of the First Order.” The smallest hint of a smile graces the sides of his lips. “He knows what he is doing. Just give it time.”

Surprisingly, his words actually quell my heart and put me at ease. I turn my body completely to face him, leaning my shoulder against the window. He still has his eyes on me, but keeps his body towards the window. “What proposals did you want to go over?”

“None, I just wanted Hux gone. He irritates me.”

“I’ve noticed,” I snort, looking down towards the ground.

He is silent for a moment, now looking out the window again. He swallows, then turns back and stalks towards the door, his cloak clapping behind him. He picks up his mask and looks into the visor, then back at me. “My quarters are upstairs, the farthest from the elevator, on the right. If you ever need anything. You should also have been issued a comm-link, it’s probably in one of your drawers. You can reach me there, you know, if you lock yourself into a storage closet again.”

I roll my eyes, pushing off the window. “Well now you know where I am, if you spill hot caffe on your face or anything.”

Kylo snorts, now looking back at his mask, then slips it back on and it locks into place. Then, he disappears through the door.

Chapter Text

The first morning in my new quarters was strange, yet invigorating. My bed is larger and more comfortable than what I’m used to, and I feel much more rested. I actually woke up earlier than my alarm, partly due to my excitement, and partly due to the fact that I was sleeping in an unfamiliar place.

I had breakfast delivered to my door, steaming hot, instead of having to fetch my own from the commons. I ate it sitting at the table by my window, watching the ships come and go as I savored the fresh meal. After, I simply set it outside. There is a pad to the door frame that allows me to request items or services from a series of droids assigned to my hall, but I haven’t had much time to look at it; just as I was about to fiddle with it, my holopad lit up with a message from General Hux, asking I meet him on the bridge.

My new washroom is bigger, and I have a tub instead of just a drain in my shower. Since I have already eaten breakfast, I take my time in the shower, massaging the shampoo into my hair and letting the hot water cascade over my body. There is a black robe hanging on the back of my door, which I wrap around myself once I flick off the water.

I open my closet to reveal my new wardrobe, which is nothing too different from anything I’ve already seen. Instead of my cloth scrubs, I have a thick, dark gray woolen top and pants that resemble the style of my scrubs, but cleaner lines and a nicer fit. They appear to almost be a cross between the general’s outfits and the nurses’s. I dress quickly, tucking my feet into my new suede boots, and take a look in the mirror. I almost don’t recognize myself; the ensemble carries a weight that my scrubs and jumpsuit did not, almost an air of importance. I pull my hair into the First Order low bun, then exit my quarters.

In the hall, I pass a pair of stormtrooper captains, marked by the orange on their right cuff, and a general, who keeps his eyes to the floor. I feel conspicuous, as if everyone knows that the only reason I’m here is essentially for a made up position that the Supreme Leader wants to try out. For some reason, my inexperience seems glaringly obvious. I shrug it off, holding my head high, remembering Commander Ren’s words. The Supreme Leader would not have given me this position if there was not a payoff for him or the Order. I’ve seen how quick they are to rid themselves of anything holding them back from their goal.

One floor down is the bridge, where most of the actual work on the Finalizer is done. Here is where all the main computers are, all the data storage, all the monitors, communications, the hub of the ship. Unlike the hangar, it is quiet, everyone speaking in hushed voices and moving hurriedly but treading as lightly as possible. Behind everyone is a large window to space, probably ten times the size of the one in my quarters.

General Hux stands in the middle of the room, hands knotted behind his back, staring out the window. Someone approaches him, and he barely turns to listen, nodding, then dismisses the man. I approach him and he swivels, a dry smile cracking his face. “Director.”

My heart starts, and I just stop myself from turning around to see who he’s actually addressing. I feel my cheeks flush. “General,” I respond.

General Hux ignores my embarrassment and leads me to a computer on the left side of the room. “I took the liberty of getting all your systems and data loaded for you.” He motions to the chair in front of the monitor and I sit. “In this column, you can select the different medical locations and view the information on them.” He selects a button on the left of the screen, which reveals a series of further buttons. “The top two are the Supremacy and Finalizer, the largest. Beneath it is Starkiller base. From there, it lists the infirmaries on smaller bases, as well as the clinics in outposts or fleet vessels.” He clicks on Starkiller Base, giving us a menu:

Overview

Staff

Activity

Statistics

Reports

He selects staff, which gives me the registry of all the doctors, nurses, and droids in the base’s medical ward. My eyes immediately find Dr. Craine, and am able to scan over his credentials. I can already see that he is the highest rated member of the staff. “Today, I’d like you to just familiarize yourself with the software and the process. We can go over your duties tomorrow.” General Hux’s breath is icy on my neck; I didn’t realize he was leaning in so close. My eyes dart to his pale face and flaming hair, then back to the screen. “In each of the infirmaries’s pages, you are able to see the information and ranking of all the staff, as well as how many troopers are being treated, what conditions they had, the mortality rates, et cetera. All of this information is vital to almost every aspect of the Order’s operations. We need to know the weaknesses of our stormtroopers, so improvements can be made in operations, equipment, and training. It is also important for making sure our infirmaries have all the materials they need, and competent staff to use them. That’s where the statistics will come into play.”

General Hux leans back to face, crossing his arms. “Spend the next couple of days reviewing the information on the top three medical bays. Then, type up a report giving a detailed analysis of each one, explaining their individual strengths and weaknesses, any patterns that you see, and your own suggestions on how to improve the efficiency of each one. We can go from there.”

“Yes, sir,” I nod, turning back to the computer.

“All of this information can be accessed from your holopad now as well, you will just need to reset it when you return to your quarters. However, we do ask that you spend at least fifteen hours a week actually on the bridge. Other officials may have questions or concerns, so you will need to be available to them.”

“Is this all I will do? Will I ever be back in the medical ward or on field missions?”

“Definitely not back in the wards. We have a bit of a surplus on nurses, and plenty of candidates from the Academy. Since you were the highest ranked, the Supreme Leader wanted to keep you in a safe position, as there is a surge of reassignments coming soon.”

This information clicks in my brain, and suddenly it makes sense. This “promotion” is a way to not only lose one nurse, but to delegate the loss of even more nurses on. Loemi and Syla appear in my mind, and I am suddenly desperate to see their rankings in the system.

General Hux continues on. “I do believe you can still be utilized for field work. That was a much smaller demographic. In fact, we have a rather large mission here in a few days. After reviewing the profiles of the field nurses, you may find that you are the most qualified.” He smiles, another crooked grin. “Just don’t let it get in the way of your responsibilities here. You are the Medical Director, and those duties take priority.”

From the sounds of it, I will have much more free time on my hands than I did previously. General Hux departs, and I immerse myself into the information. I read the overviews of the individual wards, then spend time on the details of each. The Finalizer is the highest ranked clinic, with a 97% mortality rate and staff with the best statistics. Loemi, in particular, has an extremely impressive entry. She has served the Order for seventeen years, was the founder of several pieces of equipment I’ve used, and even taught at the Academy for a while.

The system must update daily, as Loemi has already been added to the staff of the Finalizer and I am missing. Interest piqued, I back out and enter my call number into the search queue, but find nothing. I back out even farther, to the very first page, and search again. Nothing.

Brow knotted, I sit back in the chair, confused as to why I cannot find my own statistics. Am I really not considered a nurse anymore? I decide to put the thought off for now, and instead access the information for Starkiller Base. I find Syla, listed at the very bottom of the page. I am suprised at this; she must have been transferred when Loemi left the Supremacy. I grimace at what I see. With barely any experience to contribute to it, her rank is the lowest I’ve seen yet. Her name is flagged for being slower than the minimum, her mortality rate only at 71%. My heart sinks, drinking in the information. I know that this will need to be in my report at the end of the week. I sigh, take a moment to close my eyes and refocus, then continue on to study the other medical bays of the First Order.

---

When I return to my quarters, I immediately reboot my holopad so I have access to the archives that I do on the bridge. After fiddling with the pad at my door, I am able to order something to eat, which is brought to my quarters within ten minutes. I chew slowly, staring into the abyss of space, until I am alerted that my holopad is refreshed. I retrieve it and bring it over to my table, but instead of perusing through the data, I decide to compose a message to Loemi. I know she must be worried, since all she knows is that I was reassigned. I let her know that I am alright, and ask her if she can meet me in the commons to discuss my new position on her break tomorrow.

After that, I decide to look up the current operations that require field nurses and do not have one assigned. One in particular stands out, and must be the one that General Hux was referring to. Commander Ren is investigating a lead recovered from the data that was retrieved from the computer on Greater Calderon. The mission is in two days. Without even thinking, I assign myself to it, typing my call number into the queue and submitting it. It loads, and a message appears in my inbox, inviting me to the briefing for it tomorrow night. A shot of adrenaline powers through me, a high from the control I have at the tips of my fingers. It feels strange; just two weeks ago, I was a matron nurse that worked day to day in a medical ward, never venturing past the Supremacy. Then, a field nurse, where I visited three entirely new planets in the span of a week, was shot at and retaliated, dragged troopers from the battle to the safety of the ship or treated them right there in the thick of it. And now, I’m Director of it all, and control not only my own destiny but everyone else’s in the medical field. It’s exhilarating, overwhelming, and terrifying. And while the new responsibility is a new chapter and exciting on its own, I can’t help but to feel that my true place is in the field, fighting for the Order, for the lives of the men around me, and alongside Kylo.

I close my holopad, then gather my cleaned plates, taking them to the door and placing them outside. I decide to flick through the options on my keypad, just to see what is available to me. Here, I can schedule appointments for training sessions, medical or combat, I can request maintenance or custodian droids, order food or toiletries. I scroll through the different options, reading the details of each one, and I can even hear the small droid retrieving my plates as I do.

After a few minutes, I hear a soft beeping from behind me. I freeze, ears pricked, listening to see if it indeed came from inside my room. I hear it again, muffled. I turn around and scan my bed, couch, bookcase, table, holopad; nothing is lighting up or moving. I hear it once more, with no visual changes to my room, and stride towards my washroom, flicking on the light and peeking inside. I hear it again, fainter this time.

I return to my room, standing near my bed instead of by the door, and it beeps. I turn towards the bedside table closest to me and yank it open, revealing my comm-link, beeping loudly and flashing blue. I pick it up and secure it to my ear, pausing a moment before uttering, “…hello?”

“Nurse.” It’s Commander Ren.

The sound of his voice is loud in my ear, causing me to jump. Since we left last night in a pleasant mood, I decide to tease, “That’s Director, now.”

“No, I was addressing you as the field nurse assigned to my mission to KR-739. Please remove yourself and assign someone else.” His tone is not pleasant or teasing, and catches me off guard. I knot my brow and cross my arms. “It was my understanding that you are no longer performing field or matron nurse duties, as that is no longer your job.”

“General Hux said I am not working in the wards, but I can assign myself to field missions as long as it does not interfere with my new responsibilities.” I hear my voice rising defensively.

“And you are already assigning yourself to missions before your Director tasks are complete?” His voice challenges mine, fueled by anger. “Remove yourself, that’s an order.”

I feel my jaw drop open, literally at a loss for words. How is this the same man that made my last mission so comfortable? That visited me just last night and assured me that I was capable of this, that the Supreme Leader doesn’t make mistakes? “I’m tired of your mood swings, Commander,” I fire back, “I have deemed myself the most fit for that operation, and I stand by my decision.” Am I actually? I don’t know. I don’t care.

“Need we go over the multiple occasions that I have had to halt or divert missions in order to make sure that you don’t get yourself killed?” To that, I cannot argue, because it’s true. Captain GD-294 flashes through my mind, as well as the nameless stormtroopers that died while I was rescued. Commander Ren has held off his departure more than once to make sure that I make it to the ship. Guilt pools in my stomach. I clench my jaw, and the Commander continues, “I cannot do that on this operation, Nurse. All my attention needs to be on getting the information that I believe is there.”

“Then don’t do it,” I snap, blinking away my tears. “Nobody asked you to, and nobody’s asking you to now.”

“I can’t just not do it, Nurse,” he sneers.

“Just like you can’t not throw your own soldiers into walls, or leave them for dead, or kill them yourself?!” I scream back. Before he can respond, I rip the comm-link from my ear and throw it onto the bed, storming to the other side of the couch. I cross my arms and bite my fist, my anger pounding into my chest like a wild and thrashing animal, desperate to get out. My heartbeat pulses in my ears. My comm-link beeps again, and I ignore it, charging to my table and plopping down in the chair. I pull my hair out of the bun and run my fingers through it, trying to calm the emotions running rampant through me.

My comm-link beeps again, and again, and again. I don’t move from my position, my palms pressed into my forehead. When the beeping finally ceases, my body relaxes, and I rise from the table. I pad to my washroom, where I decide to take a hot bath to try and calm myself even further. I turn the knob slowly, and the faucet comes to life, water spouting from its mouth. I run my hand under it to feel when it grows warm, and just as I reach down to plug the drain, a loud pounding on my door nearly startles me into the tub.

I turn off the water and rush back into my room, opening the door to reveal Commander Ren. He brushes past me and the door slides closed. “I’m not taking ‘no’ for an answer,” he barks, whipping around to face me. “I am your Commander, and you obey my orders. I don’t want you on this operation.”

“Why?” I ask, and it pains me how pitiful my voice sounds. I clear my throat as quietly as I can.

“Again, do we need to go over it? What part of what I just said was not clear to you?”

“No, why do you do this?” I throw my hands in the air. Commander Ren pauses, waiting for me to elaborate. “Why do you tell me I’m a good field nurse, that the Supreme Leader made a good choice for to be the Medical Director, and then do this?” I wave my hands again. “Why did you go back for me so many times? Why did you show me affection—” As soon as the words exit my mouth, I regret them. I clamp my mouth shut, flame spreading across my cheeks. The real question, the one that’s been burning in my head for days, hangs between us in the air, surrounded by silence.

Commander Ren’s mask stares at me, his body unmoving. The longer he doesn’t react, the more vulnerable and embarrassed I feel. I swallow the lump in my throat, then utter, “Take your mask off.”

“No.” His response is immediate, almost cutting me off.

My heart drops, and tears prick my eyes again. I feel like an idiot. I feel exposed. I take a deep breath, steadying myself, then add on, “Do you do this with all the nurses of the First Order?”

Instantly, Commander Ren’s body goes rigid, his hands tightening into fists. All I can do is stare at the mask and guess as to what his expression is underneath. I know I cannot say anymore, that I’ve already made a fool of myself in front of the Commander of the First Order. I wait for his response.

Finally, his hands reach for his mask, and it clicks and releases. He holds it for a while, then finally pulls it off and tosses it onto my bed. I see tousled hair, pink-rimmed eyes, and a clenched jaw. He walks towards me slowly, his boots clanking loudly against the metal floor. I instinctively step away from him, and my back presses into the cold wall. Still, he approaches, his hand reaching up, fingers curling around my neck, then up into my hair, gripping tightly. His forehead presses against mine, and my chest alights on fire so strongly that I find it hard to breathe. Without thinking, I press my hands onto his chest, which is warm and hard even through the thickness of his uniform. His other hand finds my hip.

“You cannot accompany on this mission.” His voice is low and silken, and reverberates against me. I shudder, and he pulls me closer. “I lose my focus. I put your safety above the success of the mission, and I cannot do that anymore. It is unfair to the Order.” He pauses, swallowing. “I don’t know why you affect me like this. It is distracting, unsafe. I cannot—” He stops, fighting with his words, still holding me tightly.

He pulls back, looking me in the eyes. “Please, assign someone else to the mission.”

I nod, and utter a soft, “okay.”

I can see his face relax, a shift in his demeanor. He holds my gaze, then slowly releases me from his grip, stepping away from me and retrieving his helmet off my bed. “Thank you,” he says quietly, then slips his mask back on. He exits my quarters, and I remain in my position against the wall for a while, still able to feel his hands on me.

Chapter Text

My feet pad across the familiar, damp earth, and I’m surrounded by the same towering trees. I don’t know where I am, but something tugs in my chest, pulling me forward, and I continue through the rows and rows of trees. The air is cool and crisp, and smells of dirt and moss. A thick mist hangs just above my head.

I feel a presence behind me, and I turn to see Commander Ren, masked, walking behind me. His pace is quick but casual. I plant my feet to allow him time to reach me.

He does, and he turns to face directly in front of me. We stare at each other for what feels like hours, before he finally reaches forward to take my hand, pulling me with him, back the way we came.

When I open my eyes, I am laying in my new bed in my new quarters, staring up at the metal ceiling. I groan and rub my eyes, then swing my legs off the side of my bed and traipse towards the washroom. I fold myself into a hot shower, taking my time to wash and scrub my body. When I am dry and dressed, I order breakfast from the keypad by my door and take a seat at the table by my window, flicking through my holopad. Loemi agreed to meet me during her break, and I have a few hours until then.

I open the report of the field missions and remove myself from Commander Ren’s operation tomorrow. The sight of his name on the screen sends chills up my spine. My mind immediately finds itself against the wall of my room with his warm hands on me, forehead pressed against mine, telling me the reason I cannot go with him is because he will be too preoccupied with me to focus on his tasks. The sound of those words in his deep voice sets my heart on fire.

A knock on the door startles me out of my thoughts, and I walk over and swipe it open to find my breakfast sitting at my feet. I take it inside, bringing it back to my table and holopad, and munch on some fruit as I scroll through the list of available field nurses and assign the highest ranking one. I know they will receive a message for the briefing tonight, the same one I received yesterday. I close the holopad and push it to the side, allowing my plate to sit fully in front of me, and I finish my meal in silence.

I decide to report to the bridge to kill time until I get to see Loemi. I scoop my hair into a low bun and check my appearance in the mirror. Once I’m satisfied, I exit my quarters and make my way to the bridge, which is less busy than yesterday. I find my computer and sit down.

After I login, I start the report that General Hux requested I write. I make my way through all three medical bases, ranking them from highest to lowest. The highest is the Finalizer, then Starkiller Base, then the Supremacy. When I investigate further into the Supremacy, I realize that the reason for the low ranking is inexperienced staff. At the bottom of the list is Syla. I also notice that the Supremacy has the lowest amount of triage and emergencies sent to it. This could be a factor in why the nurses aren’t as experienced in critical, high-risk medical procedures. My first thought is to send more injured troopers to the Supremacy, but having higher volume with inexperienced staff will lead to fatalities. Instead, in my report, I opt to have the new nurses split up and sent to one of the smaller clinics on First Order outposts, where they will be able to experience more vital injuries in a slower paced environment.

I begin my report, typing it into a file and then switching back to view the data. I continue this until it’s time to meet Loemi. I sign off and make my way towards the elevator, nodding at the generals and stormtroopers that I pass. I press the button to lead me to the medical ward.

It beeps softly, and I step out, making the familiar journey to the medical bay of the Finalizer. The glass doors slide open to allow me entrance, and I see Gin tending to a stormtrooper at table 5. She glances up at me and smiles widely, and I return it. I walk past her to the office, where Loemi is sitting at Dr. Iyshaak’s desk, flicking through her holopad. Her eyes light up when I enter, and she stands to greet me, wrapping her arms around me tightly. “Thank the Force,” she says softly, gripping me tighter.

She pulls back, then turns to push the chair back under the desk. “Let’s go get some food and bring it back here. I assume it’s better to talk privately.”

I nod and follow her out of the office and through the medical ward, exiting to the right to head towards the commons. We walk side by side. Loemi tells the story of a stormtrooper who came in for an allergic reaction and had to get an injection in his left flank, and was deathly afraid of needles and kept passing out, even with the smelling salts. She continues the tale as we enter the commons, and we get in line to have the food prepared and placed onto trays for us. We thank the droids, then head back towards the med bay, where Loemi guides us back into the office and locks the door behind her. She sits back at the desk, and I walk past her to place my food on the counter and lean against the cabinets beneath them. I swirl a pasta around my fork as she begins, “So, you were promoted? That’s a nice uniform you have on.”

“I guess,” I say, taking a quick bite and wiping my mouth. “I’m basically doing everything the doctors used to do, as far as reporting and making suggestions for placements, delegations, and reassignments. I’m not sure why they picked me, to be honest. I feel like others would be more qualified, especially you.”

“They may have wanted someone younger,” Loemi nods her head, “Besides, you’ve always been responsible and level-headed. I’m sure they noticed that.” I nod, taking another bite of my food, then reaching for my roll and tearing a piece off. I toss this into my mouth as Loemi continues, “What did you say your new duties were?”

“I survey the data of all the clinics and infirmaries, then make reports suggesting ways to improve efficiency. I’m working on my first report, so I’m not sure what to expect after that.”

“What are some ways to improve? You said delegations, reassignments?”

“Yes, just today I typed up a proposal to have new nurses train on the outposts, where they can work true injuries in a slower pace.” I tear off another piece of my roll.

Loemi chews on her lip, pushing her food around on the tray and staring blankly at it. She stops, then looks back up at me. “Mil, are you happy here?”

Her question catches me off guard. I take a swig of my drink and lick my lips. “You mean with my new position?”

“No,” she says softly, then says even lower, “Are you happy in the Order?”

I knot my brow, placing my drink back on the counter. “Yes…” I say slowly. “I mean, it’s all I’ve ever known. But I would say I’m happy.” Loemi nods, pursing her lips. Her eyes dart away from me, and she rests her hand on her fist. “Why do you ask?” I prod.

She sighs. “Millie, I don’t want to risk getting you involved in something if your heart isn’t in it.” She gives me a sad smile. “I couldn’t take it when I thought you had been reassigned.”

“What do you mean?” I ask, my interest piqued.

She pauses for a moment, then finally speaks. “Your new position could be of great use to Dr. Craine, if you can find out more information on reassignments.” I don’t say anything, keeping my eyes on her, and she continues. “Dr. Craine is trying to find a way to help those who have been ‘reassigned,’ especially now that Syla appears to be on that path. But we don’t exactly know what reassignment entails. I was sure that it meant execution, but that wasn’t the case with you.” My heart leaps at this. She glances back at the door, then turns back to me, her voice so low I can barely hear it. “He’s working with the Resistance to try and help them escape.”

“Loemi,” I gasp, and I feel my ears grow hot. The thought of Dr. Craine working with the Resistance makes my heart surge. I don’t know what to think; he’s been a guide in my life for as long as I remember, telling me how fortunate I was to be with the Order and how much I was flourishing. The floor appears to sway beneath my feet.

“Mil, they’re evil.” Loemi lowers her eyes. “They pluck children from birth to brainwash them into being their soldiers, their nurses, or whatever they need. You’re a great medical assistant Mil, and I know you enjoy it, but you’ve been deprived of making any choice or say in who you want to be, where you want to go. And if you don’t meet their standards, you get ‘reassigned,’ and the Force only knows what that actually means.”

I look away, closing my eyes tightly, but Loemi continues. “If you could find out how to tell when someone is close to being reassigned, or where they’re taken, or what actually happens to them, we could save a lot of lives. Dr. Craine has been speaking with one of the Resistance captains, who says there is an uncharted jungle planet under the Rebellion that could safely house the refugees.”

Jungle planet.

My mind flashes to images of the humid, chilly forest where I walk slowly in my dreams. The heartbeats of the trees, the small village, and Commander Ren. Kylo. I turn back to Loemi, and I can see desperation in her eyes. “If you don’t want to help us, I will never breathe your name to anyone who is involved, and I hope you will do the same. But please, I want better for you, Mil. You’re so much better than being a slave to the First Order.”

I hold her gaze, and I feel my mouth run dry. Without thinking, I give her a quick nod, and I see her body visibly relax. She smiles at me.

---

I walk quickly back to my quarters, keeping my head low. I try not to attract attention to myself, nodding politely to others that I pass. I feel stained, like the conversation I had in the medical bay is evident in black letters across my face. My heart rises into my throat, and it feels like ages before I finally reach the door to my room and allow myself in.

I rip my clothes off and jump into the shower, turning the water on as hot as I can take it. What have I gotten myself into? I scrub my body until it’s raw. Paranoia creeps up my spine; somebody overheard us, somebody is reporting me for treason, somebody is on their way to retrieve me and bring me before the Supreme Leader, somebody will execute me. The First Order has given me opportunity after opportunity, recognized skills in me and groomed me to be the best at my trade. Can we really be evil?

The Resistance fights for a lawless universe. The Resistance fights for the happiness of the individual, not the people as a whole. The Resistance members are selfish and ignorant. But if so, why do Dr. Craine and Loemi side with them? Am I really doing wrong by telling her what I know of reassignments?

I run my hands over my face. I finally turn off the water when I notice my skin turning pink under the near boiling stream. I dry off, then dress myself into casuals, crawling into bed. My body feels exhausted, sleep tugging on my eyelids. I am unsure of the time, but I know it can’t be late. Not late enough to fall asleep. But still, I curl into myself, pulling the covers over my head and closing my eyes.

A soft knocking at my door startles me. I jump, panic flooding through my chest like fire. This is it. They know. I rip off the covers, my legs shaking as I traipse to the door. It slides open to reveal Commander Ren, dressed in his dark uniform, cloak, and mask. He looks down at me. “Hello, Nurse.”

“Commander,” I nod, my voice quivering.

He leans forward, peeking into my room, then turns back to me. “Were you sleeping?”

“Just resting,” I say quickly, my heart pounding against my chest. If he’s here to arrest me, he’s taking his time and sure is casual about it. “What brings you here?”

He doesn’t speak for a few painful moments. “I wanted to speak to you. May I come inside?”

“Yes.” I step back, allowing him entrance to my quarters. He brushes past me, and the door hisses to a close behind him. He stops at the small table in front of my couch, taking off his mask and placing it on the smooth metal surface. It clanks underneath the weight. Without looking back at me, he approaches the table by my window and crosses his hands behind his back. I knot my arms across my chest, suddenly aware that I’m in my casuals, and pad across the floor to stand next to him.

Together, we watch a few fighters come and go, as well as some personal ships and one transit to the Supremacy. The stars are endless, winking and dancing at me as I stare at them, burning holes into my eyes. Commander Ren turns toward me, looking at me through hooded eyes. “I should not have yelled at you,” he says simply.

I hold his gaze, realizing this may be the closest thing to true remorse that has ever left his lips. I nod, “You were correct. I should not be assigning myself to field missions the same week that I am given new responsibilities.”

He keeps his eyes on me, calculating. His lips pull apart slowly before he says, “Sometimes, it is difficult to tame my feelings for you. I lash out when I get frustrated with the situation I’m in.”

My chest alights at his confession, and I feel my cheeks redden. I can’t think of anything to say, so I turn back to the window, gazing again at the stars pricking the inky abyss of space. I can feel Kylo keeping his eyes on me, and my heart jump as he speaks again. “Do you feel it too, Nurse?”

My mouth dries, and I turn back to look at him. For the first time, I can see a vulnerability in his golden eyes, parted lips, and strong jaw. My eyes travel across the constellations of his face, then eventually settle on his eyes, which are boring into me. “Feel what?” I ask, even though I know exactly what he means. The sound of past conversations reverberating in your head, the constant focus of where they are in battle, the electricity of their body being in close proximity to you, the way their touch can be felt hours after their skin leaves yours.

His eyes darken, and he asks, his voice barely above a whisper, “Do you feel for me?”

“Yes,” I breathe, and I see his face relax.

He takes a step towards me, and he closes his eyes as presses his forehead against mine, just like he did the night before. Naturally, my hands snake up his chest and grip onto his shoulders. His wraps his hands around my lower back, and I am finally able to relax into him, my body resting against him. I move my head from against his forehead to placed under his chin. His chest is almost twice as broad as mine, and is warm and hard. I can feel the muscles in his arms as he grips me, and I feel at peace cradled in his body, like nothing beyond us matters.

I hear him swallow, before he utters, “Nurse, we can’t.”

I feel my heart drop. Instinctively, I pull my hands off of his chest and hold them against my own instead. I feel his body tense. “I don’t know why I feel what I do. It’s immensely distracting and inappropriate. We both have a job to do, for the Order, and that must come first.”

It feels like ice spreads over the entirety of my rib cage, and I angrily blink back tears that are forming in my eyes. “Okay.”

Kylo loosens his grip on me and steps back. I look up at him, and I can see pain in his eyes. He swallows again. “We will have to ignore these temptations, until they eventually subside.”

I just look at him, unsure of what to say. My heart plunges into my chest again and again, every second that I realize that what I finally admitted to myself, can never be. “Okay,” I say again.

Kylo holds my gaze for a few brief moments, before turning back to retrieve his helmet off the low table. He places it back onto his head, and it slowly locks into place. I don’t move from my position, the sadness pooling to the very tips of my toes. He approaches the door and stops, as if waiting for me to say something. I don’t.

His hands ball into fists, before he finally charges through the door.

Chapter Text

Sleep did not come easy for me.

I sit at the table next to my window, my feet curled up underneath me, chewing slowly as I stare out into space. My fork dangles in my hand, elbow rested against the table top. I glance to the left, where Kylo was standing the night before, where he held me close to him, and where he left. My heart thuds at the memory. My chest feels hollow, as if something had been brutally ripped out of it, but that something was never truly there. I ponder at how I am able to miss something that never existed, that never belonged to me. I turn my attention back to the window.

I take the last bite of my food, then rest my fork down and fold my arms. I watch the ships darting to and from the Finalizer, and a familiar one catches my eye: Kylo’s ship, zooming forward and then veering to the left. My eyes follow it until it disappears. I realize that, if he hadn’t confronted me, I would be on that ship now as a field nurse. I’m overcome by a nostalgic feeling, and I relish it for a few moments.

Feeling decidedly sorry for myself, I place my food tray outside my door and then snuggle back up into bed. I flick open my holopad, perusing through the information for the umpteenth time, and continue my work on the report. I know that I will be able to finish it today, especially since I am not forcing myself to work on the bridge. Typing takes considerably longer on the holopad, but the thought of sitting in my quarters all day is just too appealing. I roll my eyes at myself, but still don’t get up.

With the report almost finished, I save it and back out to the very original home page. I try to search ‘reassignment,’ but yield no results. I’m not sure how I can find the information to help Loemi, or what information will really help her. I decide to try and allude to needing a better understanding of reassignment in my report. I close the document with a request to be trained in this subject for reference on how exactly to evaluate the different members of the medical bays, then send it off to General Hux.

I lay in bed for a few more minutes, but restlessness overtakes me, and I slide out of bed to take a shower. I get dressed, still not used to the stiff Medical Director uniform, and pull my hair into a low bun. I decide to go to the infirmary and see if they need any help. I know that General Hux informed me that matron nurse duties are no longer my responsibility, but I have nothing else to do until I hear back from him. I take my holopad with me as I exit my quarters, so I will know immediately if the General assigns me another task.

When I get to the medical bay, there are no troopers at any of the tables, and no nurses in sight. I make my way back to the office, where Dr. Iyshaak is standing in front of cold storage, taking inventory. He glances up as I enter. “Hello Nurse,” he says, turning his attention to his holopad, then knots his brow and looks back at me. “What are you wearing? Did you get promoted?”

“Yes, they’re trying out a new position on me. I’m the Medical Director,” I respond, crossing my arms and leaning into the door frame.

“Oh yes, I remember the report about that.” He reaches into cold storage, spinning a bottle to check the expiration date. “Congratulations, you deserve it.” His fingers pad across the surface of the holopad.

“Thank you,” I smile at him, then peek back into the medical ward. “Where is everyone?”

“No appointments today,” he says absentmindedly, and I can tell he is absorbed in taking inventory. “No one has come in either.”

“Where is Loemi?”

“She had a meeting, and considering the level of activity I allowed her to come in later.”

I nod, then open my holopad to see if General Hux has responded to the submission of my report. He has not. I tuck it back under my arm. “Do you need help with anything, Doctor?”

“Not at the moment,” he says slowly, crouching down the lowest rack in the cold storage unit. “You are welcome to stay, though.”

I thank him, but turn on my heel and exit the office, continuing back through the medical bay and towards the elevator. I hesitate for a moment, unsure of which button to press, and ultimately decide to head back to my quarters. I huff a breath and cross my arms, resting my back against the cold wall of the elevator.

When the elevator doors open, there are three stormtroopers, as well as a captain, waiting for me to vacate the cart. I do and they shuffle in hurriedly, pressing the button for the lowest level, the hangar, and ordering the door shut. I stare back at them before a shout snaps my attention down the opposite side of the hallway. A general emerges from his quarters, meeting the one that yelled for him in the hallway. The brush past me, not giving me a second glance, and slide into the elevator as well. As the doors close, another captain exits his quarters, heading the same direction as all the other men who have passed me.

“Captain!”

He stops before me, nodding his head quickly. “Yes, ma’am?”

“What’s going on?” I ask.

His helmet turns towards the elevator before whipping back to face me. “There’s been an attack on Starkiller Base, believed to be of Resistance origin. They’ve requested all available squadrons to assist.”

My heart starts, and he waits a few moments for me to speak again before darting towards the elevator. I feel my mouth run dry; Dr. Craine and Syla are both aboard that base. I immediately charge to my door and slam my thumb onto the pad, and my door slides open. I dart towards my closet and throw it open, grabbing my field jumpsuit and changing into it quickly. I sling my backpack over my shoulders and strap my holster around my waist, patting the pocket to make sure my blaster is tucked away inside. It is. The silver chain from Loemi, normally laying across my collarbone and under my top, dangles from my neck, and I shove it back under the fabric before storming back into the hallway.

Four stormtroopers are piling into the elevator, and I break into a run so that I can catch the lift. I squeeze in between them, their hard armor pressing into my shoulders. The elevator descends, my heart pounding in my chest as we crawl to the hangar. When the doors finally open, we all rush out, and the hangar is chaos. Several ships on either sides of me are rising and darting out into space. Droids and pilots scrambling into ships, stormtroopers marching into shuttles and shouting orders at each other, generals rushing to and from captains to get information, insight, and to give what direction they can.

The troopers I exited with storm towards a small transit, and I follow quickly behind them, our boots clanking on the metal floor. The ship is cramped, only allowing ten troopers on at a time, and I shove myself in and grab hold of the handles dangling from above. The ship rises before the ramp even closes and shoots out of the hangar. The pilot does not fly smooth, his main concern being to get us to the base as quickly as possible. As the ship leans to the left or right, my chest is crushed by the weight of the men packed in around me. I reach my other hand up to the loop to try and pull myself up even farther, trying to relieve the pressure on my lungs as best I can.

It feels like hours until I feel the ship steadying out and lowering to the ground. The ramp squeaks open, and immediately the troopers charge out, the first having to jump since we have not quite landed yet. I dart out after them and am immediately met by an icy gust, slicing through my jumpsuit and to my bones. In front of me lies Starkiller Base, and I can hear screams and blaster fire, a mild explosion rattling the earth beneath me. I glance back at the shuttle, and I can see the behind it the flurries of snow and thin, tall trees. I immediately wish that I had worn my snowsuit, the numbness of my fingers and toes already spreading to the center of my body.

I bring my focus back to the base, following the stormtroopers through the sliding door and to the right. I realize immediately that though the walls shield me from the winds, the atmosphere inside isn’t much warmer. My breath swirls in my face as I screech to a stop, watching the stormtroopers as they charge forward, down a corridor and then turning left. I stay where I am, at a crossroads, unsure where I am or what I should do. I decide to try and find the medical bay.

Another explosion, and I brace myself against the wall. In both the Supremacy and the Finalizer, the medical bay was on Floor 2, so it was easy to get soldiers from the hangar if they needed immediate treatment. I run forward, towards where I feel the center of the base to be, taking an additional left and then bearing straight. Eventually, I find an elevator. I press for Level 2 and whip around to survey both sides. I pull my blaster from my hip, realizing I had just been racing around the hallways without my weapon out.

The elevator door opens and I dash inside, jamming my finger onto the button to close the cart. I ascend to Level 2, and as the door creaks open, smoke billows into the elevator. I pull my elbow over my face and extend my blaster with my other, taking shallow breaths and crouching below the smog line. I can see the smoke is coming from a room to the left, so I run down a corridor directly in front of me. Once the smoke has cleared, I stand up and put both hands on my weapon. The frigid temperature of Starkiller engulfs me again once I am away from the fire.

I turn right, running directly into a group of stormtroopers. They raise their blasters, then realize I’m with the Order and lower them. “Come with us,” one says, nodding his head down the hallway.

I shake my head. “Where is the medical bay?”

“Down this hall, on the left.”

“Was it evacuated?”

“I don’t know, Nurse. But you need to come with us. Not all of the Rebel forces have been detained—”

I stop listening, turning on my heel and heading the direction he described to me. I pass another group of stormtroopers, who do not stop for me this time. I take the final left, and I see it; or what’s left of it. The familiar glass doors have been shattered, the overhead light flickering. It smells like some sort of electrical burn, and I can hear some machine beeping faintly. I raise my weapon again, entering the room slowly. A few of the tables are flipped over, medical supplies scattered across the floor. Another tremor shakes the room and kills the overhead light completely, leaving only the faint glow of cold storage and the red and green bulbs on the machines. I can see the faint outlines of the tables and equipment, their reflections on my blaster, and the vapor of my breath in front of me.

“Dr. Craine?” I call out, immediately whipping around to make sure no one heard me and approached from behind. I glance around the entire room, and see no movement. I’m not sure if my hands are trembling from apprehension or from the icy temperature. “Dr. Craine?” I call again, stepping further into the room. My boot finds a syringe, shattering glass all over the floor beneath me. I can’t help but to yelp and jump back, shaking the shards off of my foot.

“Nurse?”

Though it is faint and distant, I immediately recognize Syla’s voice. “Syla!” I call, dashing forward. I find her, sitting behind an overturned table, her arms wrapped around her knees. I kneel before her, yanking my backpack off. “Are you hurt?” I am only able to see a shadow of her. I don’t see any blood, and she doesn’t seem to be in any distress.

“No, they didn’t see me,” she says quietly, and she doesn’t move from her position.

“Who didn’t?” I ask, sliding my backpack back on. I stare at her, and she doesn’t respond, keeping her eyes on her knees. I glance around the room, and I don’t see any traces of blood or blaster holes. However, the place is ransacked, like a storm blew through and destroyed almost everything in the medical bay. “Did they take anything?” I prod.

“Yes, almost everything,” she nods.

“Where is Dr. Craine?”

“He left yesterday, our matron nurse was in charge.”

Another explosion, and a few instruments fall off of a table and clank against the floor. Syla jumps. “Okay, we need to go,” I say, wrapping my arm around hers and pulling us to a stand. I tug her along behind me, my other arm raised and equipped with my blaster.

Some of the lights in the hallway are now out as well, but my eyes have somewhat adjusted to the darkness. Syla hesitates, and I hear her breath hitch in her throat, so I yank her behind me and we exit to the right. We reach the crossroads where I met the stormtroopers, and my mind blanks, my eyes darting to the left and right. Syla stands directly behind me, and I can feel her trembling. “Which way to the elevator?” I ask her, and she just looks at me. “Syla!” I yell, and she looks beyond me and screams.

Red blaster fire sizzles past my ear, and I whip around. Three Resistance members strafe towards us, blasters raised, and fire another round. I shove Syla to the floor and grip my weapon with both hands, firing repeatedly. I hit two of them, and I hear the shouts of stormtroopers from behind the Rebels. They appear and shoot the remaining Resistance member, but not before he fires a single shot that clips me in the arm. I groan loudly, gripping it with my hand, trying to apply as much pressure as I can to stifle the pain.

“Nurse!” Syla cries, and the stormtroopers approach us.

“Follow us,” one trooper, a Captain, says as he nods his head down the hall they appeared from.

“Come on,” I tell Syla through gritted teeth, releasing my arm so I can raise my blaster again.

“But your arm—”

“Syla, we need to go!” I shout back, and we follow the stormtroopers as they guide us down the corridors. We are greeted by the familiar smoke, and I know we are close to the elevator. We take one more turn and I am able to see it through the smog. We break into a run, but a series of shots appear from the right. Syla screams again, and we stop, firing in the direction where we saw the blaster fire. There is a retaliation, and one of our troopers is shot and drops to the ground. Anger bubbles in me, and I fire a quick succession into the smoke, where I am now able to faintly make out the outlines of figures. The remaining stormtroopers fire as well, and we are able to take them down.

Another group appears from the opposite direction, and we turn and fire at them as well. The Captain is hit in the shoulder and drops his weapon. I rush to him, holstering my blaster and throwing off my backpack. I rip open a sanitation wipe and stick it down his armor. I am able to make out a seething sound through his helmet. The two Rebels are killed by the stormtroopers, who come back to watch me work on their leader. “Can you get her out of here?” I ask the Captain, who nods and orders one of the troopers to escort Syla to one of the escape shuttles. She stares at me, fear gripping her heart. “Go Syla,” I say firmly, turning my attention back to the Captain.

I hear them approach the elevator as I grab a bacta patch, pressing it firmly onto the blaster wound. My own wound screams against my skin, the heat and pain searing down my arm. Once the Captain is finished, I dress and clean my own as best I can by reaching my other hand up the sleeve of the jumpsuit.

We stand and approach the elevator, calling it to us and scrambling in. We descend to ground level, exiting and turning to the right. We run into another group of Resistance members, and take them down quickly. We take another right, and I hear the Captain’s comm-link beeping, and he answers: there are civilians trapped on the sixth floor. He looks at me. “We have to help them. Can you find your way out?”

“I’ll go with you,” I say, and we all head back the way we came. I hear shouts down the corridor, followed by frenzied blaster fire. Underneath it all, I hear a familiar humming noise, and when all is quiet besides it, my heart pounds in my chest.

Commander Ren appears from around the bend, flanked by two stormtroopers. I make eye contact with the oil black mask and he freezes so quickly that the troopers almost walk into him. The stormtroopers with me instinctively stop as well, glancing at me, probably just as confused as the Commander’s troopers as to why we are all staring at each other in the hallway.

Shots ring out from behind us and we whip around, firing back against another group of Rebels. I watch as they are all violently thrown back against the wall, and Commander Ren pushes past us and swings his saber. He slices the men in half, his steps and attacks fueled by a blatant rage.

“Nurse, we must report to Level 6,” the Captain says. Commander Ren stands, chest heaving, facing away from us and at the carnage he created. “Will you be accompanying us?”

“No,” Commander Ren’s mechanical voice belts, “She is coming with me.”

I turn back to face him, staring at his back. The stormtroopers wait a few moments, before turning and heading down the hall. The stormtroopers that were with the Commander also leave, and we are alone in the corridor, accompanied only by the bodies on the floor and the swirls of my breath in the chilled air.

He recalls his saber and turns to me, cowl whipping as he does. “What are you doing here!?” he barks, raising his finger at me.

“They requested assistance from the Finalizer,” I say simply. I am not sure how to articulate the drive I felt to rescue Syla and Dr. Craine.

“Not from you,” he says coldly, “You are the Medical Director of the First Order. We have spoken a few times regarding this, Nurse. Your field nurse duties are over.”

A red blast screams down the hall, landing directly on the visor of Commander Ren’s mask, and a large crack spreads across the glass. I step forward and fire at the Resistance members who have appeared at the end of the hallway. Commander Ren flings off his mask, and it clanks loudly on the floor. His lightsaber reappears, and he pulls a Rebel towards him with the Force and stabs the sabers through him. He steps forward and I see his dark hair clinging to his neck with sweat, gritted teeth, eyes aflame as he approaches the remaining Rebels. Two more appear from the opposite direction and I fire wildly, slaying them before they had the chance to shoot at me.

As the smoke clears, I whip around to face Kylo. “My Medical Director duties have been fulfilled. Starkiller needed assistance!” I yell at him.

“I don’t want you doing this anymore!” he screams back, the sound of his natural voice echoing down the hall. I can see passion and desperation in his eyes.

“General Hux informed me that I am able to go on operations as a field nurse still, and last I checked, I report to him, not you,” I say blandly, furrowing my brow at him.

“Well perhaps the Supreme Leader should be informed of the shitty training that’s being done by him,” Kylo sneers. “We have enough field nurses.”

“Or, perhaps you could learn to ignore your temptations until they subside!?” I scream at him. I don’t realize that tears are forming until I feel one slide down my cheek, hot against the freezing temperature of Starkiller Base. I angrily swipe it away, glaring at him.

His demeanor changes, the fury in his eyes replaced with something else. I understand immediately why he wears the mask, as his feelings appear easily on his face. He swallows, takes a step towards me, then immediately whips around as more blasts appear from the left. His swings his lightsaber, absorbing the shots, and I fire alongside him. Even more appear from the other direction, and I scream as I fire as rapidly as I can.

I can hear the humming of Kylo’s saber as his lifts it up, bringing it down with as much force as he can. Without his mask, I can hear his grunts and snarls as he blocks more bullets. I pin myself against the wall in an attempt to make me harder to hit. My blaster sears through my glove, almost burning my hand as I fire over and over.

A few Resistance members go down, my shots landing in their chests. One steps forward and fires, and my same arm is hit again. I can’t help but to cry out, my gun lowering as I grab my arm again. My yelp gets Kylo’s attention, who appears and slaughters the remaining Rebels, growling as he does so. His moves are animalistic, and filled with a force and brutality that I have never seen, even for him. I push myself off the wall and fire a few more blasts, landing as many as I can on the Resistance members that are attempting to retreat.

Eventually, the noises stop, my gun lowers, and Kylo sheaths his saber for a final time. He turns to me, breathing heavily, sweat beads sliding down his forehead. I can’t help but to stare back, the pain radiating from my arm into my chest, almost all of my energy now dripping out of me. I feel faint.

He approaches me, parting his lips, and reaching forward. My body is exhausted. I wait for him; I cannot muster enough strength to meet him in the middle. When he is inches from me, I cannot help but to marvel at him. He’s so much broader than me, so much taller. There is still a fire in his eyes, but a different one now. Another passion, something new.

His extended arm, the same one I have seen in my dreams so many times now, snakes around my waist, and he pulls me into him and presses his lips onto mine, hard. I gasp, a whirlwind of feelings and energies throbbing in my chest. It’s overwhelming. He grips me so tightly that it almost hurts, pulling away for just a moment only to crash his lips onto mine again. A desperation comes over my body, a necessity that I’ve never experienced before. I kiss him back, the heat of it warming my freezing extremities. His lips are hot, and I can feel the sweat on his face brushing my cheek. He makes a sound, different than the snarls of his battle, but still desperate and unintentional.

He pulls back a final time and looks at me, and I see something in his eyes that I’ve never seen before, like he feels that if he lets me go I will disappear in a puff of smoke. I try to return it, but I feel a static in the back of my head, slowing creeping its way forward and into my vision. He suddenly becomes fuzzy. I close my eyes tightly and reopen them, but the static is only worse. I’m instantly hyper-aware of the pain in my arm.

“Nurse.” Kylo’s voice is soft, deep, and sounds like it’s miles away. I close my eyes again, but struggle to reopen them. My legs begin to wobble, and I hear my gun clank to the ground. I try desperately to hold onto consciousness.

Nurse!”

Chapter Text

My eyelids feel heavy, like there’s weights hanging from my lashes, forcing them down no matter how badly I want them to open. I feel my eyebrows knot, and I try desperately to awaken, but I just cannot summon myself to consciousness. I hear a faint voice, and something soft and warm brushes across my forehead. I try desperately to listen, to feel. I am not touched again, and blackness consumes me.

---

It feels like seconds later when I am finally able to open my eyes without much resistance. I stare blankly ahead as my surroundings slowly come into focus. My arm lays stretched out before me, swaddled in a white medical brace. It’s resting against a soft mattress with silky black sheets. Beyond the bed is a dark nightstand and a metal wall.

I lay for a few minutes, trying to gather my bearings. Where am I? What happened? Was I asleep? I turn my head to face the ceiling. I’m in my quarters. What time did I go to bed last night? What did I do? Why can’t I remember anything?

I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to run through the events of yesterday. I woke up, I worked on my report, Loemi wasn’t at the medical ward, I saw Dr. Iyshaak, then what? I open my eyes again and attempt to sit up, but my wrapped arm is extremely weak. I topple to the one side, grunting, then push myself up slower, propping against a pillow.

I hear a faint gasp, and I glance up to see Loemi darting up from the couch in my room and rushing over to me. She runs her palm across my hairline, a familiar feeling. Her eyes look tired; dark circles sit beneath them. “How are you, Mil?”

“What happened?” is the only thing I can think to say.

“You got shot in the arm,” she says slowly, sitting herself on the end of my bed. “During the attack on Starkiller Base.”

My mind is still blank. I stare at her, trying to grasp a single memory as they flit around in my mind, just out of my reach. “When?”

“Yesterday,” she says calmly, “You’ve been asleep for a while. Pain medicine will do that.”

My brows cross again. A new memory, speaking to the stormtrooper in the hallway, Starkiller Base is under attack, the frenzy, being squished between several troopers on a small transit. Loemi must see the confusion on my face, as she continues on, “You were shot twice, actually. Once, and someone mended it, and then again in the same spot. They think you either passed out from the shock or the pain, probably both.”

“I passed out?” More comes to me: the frigid air slicing through my jumpsuit, running through the dark halls of the base, the flickering lights of the medical bay.

“Yes, Commander Ren carried you to one of the medical transports.”

Kylo. I see him, stopping dead in his tracks when he finds me in the hallway, his mask clanking loudly against the floor, gritted teeth, the crackle of his lightsaber, the rage when he heard me cry out in pain, followed by the peace when he approached me, wrapped his arm around me and kissed me deeply, and then I remember. I lost consciousness in his arms. I remember him slowly fading away, calling out to me.

“There were a lot of injuries; all of the wards are entirely filled. Anyone who didn’t need to be constantly monitored was just sent to their quarters. They patched you up and brought you here.” Loemi tosses me a sympathetic grin. “Your medicine is on the counter over there, if you need it.”

It’s just too much to process. My thoughts pound in my skull. I lean my head back against the pillow and close my eyes, still not responding to her. My arm begins to throb, or perhaps was always throbbing and I’m just now really feeling it since I’m awake. I inhale deeply through my nose.

“Mil,” Loemi starts, leaning forward. “Why did you go?”

“I wanted to make sure Dr. Craine and Syla were alright. Dr. Craine apparently wasn’t there, but I found Syla.” A thought occurs to me. “Is she alright? Syla?”

“Yes, completely unharmed. She was taken to one of the evacuation shuttles.” Loemi’s forehead creases. “How did you know Syla was there? She’s supposed to be stationed at the Supremacy.”

“When I was familiarizing myself with the database, I looked at her credentials. It has her listed as a nurse on Starkiller Base. I assumed it happened when we were shuffled around as well.”

“That’s odd. I didn’t realize so many people were moved.” Loemi stands, crossing her arms. I see her suck her lip into her mouth, chewing it as she thinks. “I wonder how many nurses were changed, and where they went. If I gather a list of everyone that was stationed on the Supremacy with me, will you be able to tell me where they are now?”

“Sure,” I say simply, closing my eyes again. I’m not sure if that’s something I could get in trouble for or not, or why that information would mean anything to her. I don’t have the energy to care right now, though. I hear a faint beeping, and I recognize it as the alert of my comm-link. I turn my head towards the sound.

“Do you want me to answer that?”

I inhale again, closing my eyes. “No, I’ll deal with it later. I want to rest a little bit longer.”

“It’s the Symoxin that’s making you drowsy. It’ll wear off, but you might really start feeling that arm then.”

My comm-link rings again, but I don’t move, and I already want to fall back asleep. Loemi shifts her position on the bed, pulling one leg up to rest beneath her. “It’s strange to think, how much things have changed,” she says whimsically.

“Hmm?” I ask, cracking open one eye.

“It seems like yesterday that we were working together on the Supremacy. You were a matron nurse and had never stepped foot on any other ship, and now you’re flying to different worlds, getting promoted, throwing yourself into battles.” Loemi laughs, and I try to manage one as well, but it just comes out as a small snort. A silence drapes over us, then Loemi pushes herself off of the bed, patting me lightly on the foot. “Okay, I can take a hint. Take your medicine if you need it. It won’t kill you to take a few days off. If you need anything, you know where to find me.” I open my eyes to catch a warm smile from Loemi, and I return it.

A soft knock on the door, barely audible, causes her to whip around. My ears piqued, I sit up. Loemi glances back at me: “Are you expecting anyone?”

I shake my hand, and she slowly approaches the door, pressing the button. It slides open, and Loemi gasps loudly, jumping back. My heart starts and I back into my pillow, pain shooting up my arm.

Commander Ren enters the room slowly, his mask turning from Loemi to myself. My heart alights at the sight of him. “C-Commander,” Loemi stutters, and she bows quickly.

“Nurse,” he says softly, nodding to her. “I had some concerns regarding the attack on Starkiller Base that I need to discuss with M17-L33. Can you excuse us?”

“Of course, sir,” she says quickly, and she gives me a fleeting look before she darts out of my quarters. The door hisses to a close behind her, and Commander Ren reaches for his mask slowly, unlocks it, and removes it, raven hair spilling out, lips parting, golden eyes settling onto me. It’s hard to determine what he’s feeling. I see something in his eyes, but I can’t put my finger on it. He holds the mask for a moment, before placing it on the table in front of the couch.

“You got your helmet fixed,” I say softly, and it feels like my weighted body is sinking into my pillow. The surprise of seeing Kylo awakened me, but the drowsiness is still creeping in the back of my mind.

“Yes,” he nods, looking down at it, then back at me. He takes a seat on the couch, resting his elbows on his knees. His fingers lace together. “Are you alright?”

“It’s not serious,” I answer him indirectly, glancing at the cast.

“You didn’t answer your comm-link; but then again, you have a bad habit of that. I just wanted to make sure.”

“Thank you,” I say softly, and he nods again.

A silence drapes over us, but it doesn’t feel uncomfortable. His presence is soothing. A part of me wants to address what happened between us, and I contemplate it, but he starts talking again. “This is why I don’t want you to go on field missions anymore.”

“Not now,” I quip.

A smile breaks his face, and I swear I even heard a chuckle. I laugh, too. He’s sitting so far away, on the couch across the room. I want him to come closer. “Do you actually want to discuss the attack?” I ask him.

“Sort of,” he answers. He turns to face the window into space, bringing his hand to his chin to rest his head on it. “It was just… odd.”

“Why do you say that?”

Kylo is silent for a minute, and I see the reflection of the stars dancing in his eyes. Then he stands, sauntering towards me, crossing his arms in front of him. He stops to stand next to me, leaning against the wall. He looks at me. “It was pointless.”

I furrow my brow. “What?”

“I don’t understand why they did it. The explosions were small and random, and nothing important was damaged. They didn’t attempt to deplete our forces; they only attacked whoever they encountered. They did steal from our reserves, but that just seems.. risky? To attack a base of that power and magnitude for supplies they could get elsewhere?” He shakes his head. “I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

“Do you think there was some kind of ulterior motive?”

“Yes, but I’m not sure what. Was there anything about that operation that seemed unusual to you?”

“Not that I can think of,” I say, although I did think it was a little strange that Dr. Craine was not present the day of the attack. And that Loemi was missing from her post as well, presumably ‘in a meeting.’ Why did you go? How did you know Syla was there? Did Loemi know she was there? A sick feeling pools in the bottom of my chest. I turn away from Kylo and stare at my wrapped arm, unsure if my thoughts could be evident on my face or if he could somehow sense the nervous shift in my demeanor.

Suddenly, my comm-link sounds again, and I turn to look at my bedside table, where I know it sits in the drawer. I exhale loudly, turning back to face Kylo. “Is there any particular reason you don’t answer that thing?” he asks.

“I’m recovering,” I say simply. “The Symoxin is wearing me out. I just don’t have the energy right now.”

He swallows, looking down at my arm, and then walks towards me. He sinks down on the bed next to me and cradles my arm, turning it over in his hands. He runs a finger across a strip of bandage. “Why did you really go to Starkiller?” he asks, the same question that Loemi posed to me. When it comes from his lips, it sounds different, but I’m not sure why.

“Syla,” I say simply, and his eyes find mine. “I knew she was on that base and I wanted to make sure she was alright.”

“Is that the nurse that doesn’t perform well?” His voice isn’t condescending, like he is genuinely curious. I nod, and he purses his lips.

“I care deeply for her,” I prod, and Kylo turns his attention back to my arm. “I’m worried about her being reassigned. What does reassignment entail, exactly?”

“It depends,” Kylo says softly, and he tenderly places my arm back on the bed. “Each reassignment is different. They are handled case by case. The member in question, their statistics and work history, the necessity of the role, the availability of students from the Academy, those are all things that play a factor.”

“What about negative reassignments?” My mouth runs dry as I ask. “What happens to them?”

“That’s all nothing you need to worry about. You’ve earned your place in the First Order.” He rises slowly from my bed. “Do you need anything?”

“No, thank you.” I toss him a faint smile.

“Let me know if that changes, if you require something. I’ll make sure it’s done.”

Heat immediately spreads across my cheeks, and I nod, staring up at him. He takes a step towards the bed and leans down, his hands bracing his weight on either side of me. My heart thuds inside of my chest. His gloved hand finds my cheek, and he presses his forehead against mine. His fingers slide back to my neck and grip tightly, holding me in place. He keeps me there for a few moments. “Stop testing me, Nurse.” The words are affectionate, pleading, exasperated, as if the past two days of fighting the Alliance, carrying me back to the ship, and not knowing how I was healing, were exhausting for him. I can’t muster a reply.

He rises, then turns back to the small table to retrieve his mask. He slips it on, and I hear it lock into place. He turns and exits, not glancing back at me.

I hear a small blip, a message on my holopad. I slowly rise, and I feel woozy from the motion. I steady myself on the side of the bed, then traipse towards the device sitting on the table near my window. There waiting is a message from General Hux:

Director M17-L33,

I have reviewed your report and am pleased with the assessments and suggestions you made. I also recognize your request to have a better understanding of the reassignment process. An opportunity has arisen for you to sit in on a possible reassignment case that is currently under review. I attempted to reach you via your comm-link earlier today, but I was informed of your condition. When you are feeling able, please respond to this message so that we can have a meeting to further discuss.

I lower the holopad slowly, staring out into the vastness of space without really looking at it. The prospect of having a meeting with General Hux, especially regarding reassignments, sends a chill down my spine. I don’t have much time to think, as staring into the inky blackness only makes me want to close my eyes.

I turn on my heel to head towards my bed, stopping at the bottle of Symoxin on the counter. I pick it up, rolling it over in my hands. I decide not to take it, as I’d rather endure the pain than have to continue fighting to stay awake. I crawl back into the bed, and sleep quickly finds me.

---

I feel considerably better the next day, as I have slept off the drowsiness and my hurts less than I expected it to. As long as I do not lift above my head or move it too quickly, I don’t feel much other than a dull throbbing. Showering and getting dressed was a bit of a challenge, and I had to order new wraps for my arm from the pad on my door. I struggle with getting it to stay, but by holding it down with my chin and tossing it over my shoulder, I am finally able to get it the white strips secured tightly. I type up a response to General Hux saying that I am feeling much better, then order myself some breakfast.

He answers much quicker than I expected, asking him to meet me at his office in just a mere fifteen minutes. I slug down the rest of my breakfast, placing my dishes outside my quarters and heading a floor down, where all the officials’s offices are located.

General Hux’s is almost at the end of the hall, with only one other general and Commander Ren’s keeping it from the wall. My eyes linger on Kylo’s door, wondering if he’s in there, and I ignore the electric charge that surges through me when I picture his eyes, his hair, his lips. I shake my head and knock hurriedly on the door to General Hux’s office.

The door slides open, revealing a starkly cold room, a desk with three computer screens, and black metallic cabinets sitting behind it. General Hux stands from the desk, his orange hair almost appearing to glow from the light of the monitors. He smiles at me. “Director, please, come inside.”

I walk across the room and towards him, my footsteps echoing loudly in the quiet room. I stand before him, but he motions for me to join him on the other side of the desk. I oblige.

One of the monitors, the one closest to me on the left, is simply on the home page. The farthest one, on the right, is cycling through surveillance footage, showing dark corridors illuminated by blaster fire, and I recognize it as the attack on Starkiller Base. My heart feels icy. The middle screen appears to be a message, from a doctor I have never heard of: Dr. Sin Zapalo.

“M17, your reassignment was one of the best reassignments that can be bestowed upon anyone. If the First Order could have its way, these are the only ones that we would perform. However, that is not the case.” His finger presses a button beneath the right screen, flicking through until it shows the medical bay of Starkiller. Resistance members flood in, guns raised, their mouths moved energetically, silent shouts. However, no blasters are fired. The nurses appear from off screen and leave willingly with a few Rebels. A few stay, stealing items from the storage units and maniacally destroying objects in their path. Then, they leave.

“Do you notice anything strange about this?” General Hux asks, looking down at me.

I keep my eyes on the screen, the video now paused. “The Resistance members took the medical staff… and appeared to be destroying things randomly,” I answer. Commander Ren’s words from yesterday pool into my brain. Clearly, the officials have been discussing the attack, perhaps even with the Supreme Leader.

“Correct,” General Hux says quickly, now leaning over me to scroll through the message on the middle monitor. “However, I do not believe that the nurses were taken against their will. If you refer to this message here—” he stops scrolling, pointing to a section of the message. “Just four days prior to the supposed spontaneous attack, these nurses were referred to Starkiller Base by Dr. Zapalo. Three were from First Order outposts, and another was from the Supremacy. The other nurse, S19-T01, was also a recent transfer, but was left behind and not even acknowledged. This leads me to believe that this was an extraction of these specific nurses, and that someone in our forces is working directly with the Resistance.”

Dr. Craine wasn’t there. Loemi wasn’t there. Syla was left behind because “they didn’t see her.” How did you know Syla was there? The ground begins to sway underneath me. I place my hand on the desk and squeeze my eyes shut, trying desperately to regain my composure.

“Naturally, we suspected Dr. Zapalo, but after we pulled his recent messages, we found it was much more extensive than that. An entire network of doctors have been involved with the Resistance, in a plot to get members of their staff removed from their duties to the First Order.” My mouth begins to salivate, bile rising in my throat. I fight it back down.

“It goes without saying that this is not tolerated, M17. Members of the Order who partake in this kind of behavior are eliminated. For the sake of others, we use the term reassigned, the same term for other instances of promotion or demotion. As Medical Director of the First Order, any kind of messages, conversations, actions, or anything that is deemed traitorous in your eyes is to be reported. Any kind of behavior that will negatively impact the Order, beyond communications with the Resistance, needs to be reported. All requests and information regarding the doctors, nurses, and medical wards will now go through you. This will help us discover odd patterns such as this more quickly. Obviously, your duties extend beyond this, but considering your inquiries on the topic of reassignment, I thought this would be a good lesson to you.” He turns his body to face me. “Failure to report any suspicious activity makes you an accessory to treason. Please keep that in mind moving forward.”

I feel tears pricking my eyes, and I swallow as I look up at him, nodding my understanding. He dismisses me from his office, and I exit as calmly as I can. I pass a squadron of stormtroopers, and they nod at me, but I keep my head held down. I jam my finger onto the elevator button and realize that my hand is trembling.

The corridor feels like it’s closing in on me as I storm down the hall towards my quarters. It takes all my strength not to break out into a run. I press my thumb against the pad, grant myself access, and the door hisses open. I walk straight to the bed, pulling the covers down and crawling underneath them. I want nothing more than to reach out to Loemi, but I am too petrified that I will not receive a response, that yesterday was my last encounter with her. I cringe at how rudely I dismissed her from my room. I grab a pillow from my bed, clutching it so tightly the pads of my fingers throb, and I thrust my face into it, using it to suppress my scream.

Chapter Text

I don’t sleep.

My bare feet pad across the cold floor of my quarters, the feeling almost as numb as my chest. The panic has subsided, replaced with a gaping absence where contentment used to be. My thoughts swim from General Hux’s revelation to the implications of Loemi, from my conversation with Loemi to Syla, from rescuing Syla to Kylo’s kiss in the corridor, over and over again. My head throbs against my skull.

I had taken a shower to try and calm myself, letting the scalding water spray onto my cold form to try and awaken something inside of me. It didn’t work. I know my body is preparing itself for the ultimate loss; to go to the medical ward and discover if Loemi is still the matron nurse or if she has been reassigned. I am disconnecting, closing in on myself to cushion the blow of potentially losing my greatest friend, yet I cannot summon myself to make the journey.

And now, I pace from my window to my door, clutching a towel to my body and leaving small scatterings of water droplets to mark where I had been.

My comm-link buzzes softly, breaking me from my reverie. As always, it is hidden in the top drawer of my metallic nightstand. I can hear it slowly sliding across the bottom of the drawer as it vibrates. I stop my trek to approach it, yanking it open, staring down at the blinking blue device. I watch it until it stops, too afraid to answer.

I shake my head and slam the drawer shut, trotting to my closet and throwing on my Medical Director uniform. I pull my wet hair into a braid that sits on my back. I slip on my boots, stomping on the left one as I charge for the door. It slides open desperately slow, so slow that I shimmy through the opening before the metal even reaches the other side.

I dart down the corridor, heading directly towards the elevator. I pass figures to my left and right, but my mind is too crowded to register anyone. I slip into the elevator, ordering it to the second floor. I can hear my heartbeat inside my chest.

It beeps and opens, and I charge out of the cart, nearly slamming into a pair of stormtroopers. I shout my apology back to them, then continue on my way, my hands balling into fists. My anxiety heightens as I approach the medical bay doors.

They grant me access to the infirmary, where every bed is occupied. The portable cots are set up as well, and every single one is in use. The ward appears to be fully staffed, as I can pick out Dr. Iyshaak and seven nurses bustling about. None of them are Loemi.

I make my way to the back office. I blink rapidly; the walls feel like they are closing in on me. Please be in here, please be in here, please be in here.

The office door hisses open, and I slowly step inside. Relief floods my chest when I see Loemi standing next to cold storage, staring down at a device in her hands. She jumps at my arrival, but relaxes when she sees me. Her eyes are red and puffy, and dark circles sit beneath them. Her hair is disheveled. She holds my gaze, but hurriedly shoves the small metal object in her pocket.

“Mil,” she says softly, walking towards me. “Are you alright?”

“Did you know?” I ask loudly, my voice cracking. Loemi’s eyebrows knot, and she stops in place. I turn around and lock the door, whipping back around to face her. “Did you know that the attack on Starkiller was an extraction?” I ask her again, much quieter this time.

A look of panic crosses her face, and in an instant, it’s gone. I only catch it because I’ve known her for as long as I can remember. “What do you mean?”

“Don’t, Loemi,” I hiss, anger and urgency bubbling in my stomach. I have to know if she’s safe, if she wasn’t involved with what General Hux revealed so I can relax my mind. “Please, just be honest with me. Did you know about the extraction?”

Loemi purses her lips, holding my gaze. It tells me everything I need to know. I exhale loudly, putting my face in my hands, which I realize are trembling. “Mil, Syla is going to get reassigned, you and I both know that,” she says sternly, and I pull my hands from my face to look up at her. “Dr. Zapalo had been planning that for months, and it was a last minute decision on my part to transfer her over that day. She’s not improving.”

My heart drops and I sigh again, looking away from her and settling my gaze on the cold storage unit. I cross my arms, and my bullet wound aches in protest. “So when you asked me to send you a report of all the transfers, you were just lying? Giving me busy work?”

“Mil,” Loemi starts, but I still don’t look at her. “I’m trying to protect you. So when messages get breached—” she lowers her voice to a whisper, “like they did this time, nothing gets traced back to you.”

“Is there anything that links you to the extraction?”

“No, Dr. Craine and I decided to move Syla on our own volition, and we weren’t involved in that at all. We also haven’t been sending our messages from our First Order-issued equipment.” She spits the last word.

My heart settles, and I nod. “I thought you wanted me to help you with this?”

“I do, but it’s not something you can just join. Any information you get from your new position will be extremely helpful, but I don’t want you involved in any communications or missions. I know that everyone that was involved with this is gone now.” I see tears brimming Loemi’s eyes, but she quickly blinks them away. “Dr. Zapalo and the others were communicating on their holopads and First Order computers. Granted, it was in code, but the generals here aren’t idiots.” She presses her hand to her forehead, messaging it roughly. “We can’t afford mistakes like that.”

“Loemi, I don’t understand this.” She glances up at me. “How is the Alliance any better than the Order?” She shushes me quickly, glancing at the door. I lower my voice. “They murdered countless stormtroopers in that operation, and they murder us all the time.”

“Mil, you just started venturing off of the fleet ships within the past few weeks. You have no idea what the Order is capable of, and what they’ve been doing. Those Rebels risked their lives to be able to rescue those nurses and get information to help us be able to escape this life that the Order has trapped us in. It’s a small battle that will lead to more lives saved in the future.”

I swallow, looking down at the ground. I don’t know what to think. All I’ve ever known is that the Resistance is against the First Order. The First Order trained me to be what I am. They’re the reason that I’m knowledgeable in my field, that I can use a blaster, that I have the courage that I do to jump onto a transit to a base under attack to save someone I care about. And Loemi, one of my dearest confidants and someone I respect and love more than anyone I know, is telling me they are evil. And that they need to be stopped.

Loemi continues on: “There is a city that they are planning to destroy, completely eradicate. It’s a large metropolis, responsible for providing the Order with the fuel for their land crafts. They discovered that the queen is providing small amounts of this fuel to the Resistance as well. Millie, the city is so dense. There’s so many families and children, so many innocent beings.”

“How do you know this?” I ask, finally meeting her eyes again.

“Dr. Craine is a central figure within the Rebellion, he has a lot of informants. One of the field nurses told him about the mission to wipe out the city, and they are going to try and stop them.”

“Why would the Order wipe out its source of fuel?”

“To send a message. There are other places to get fuel. Places that will be more compliant when they see what happens when they aren’t.”

I’m silent. I don’t know what to say. I cross my arms and lean back against the counter. I hear shouting from inside the medical ward, both me and Loemi’s heads snapping towards the sound. It gets louder, and Loemi approaches the door, just as a loud banging erupts from the other side. We both stumble back, and she rushes forward to unlock it and allow it to slide open. It does, revealing Commander Ren. “Commander,” Loemi gushes, bowing quickly. I feel my jaw drop open, the blood in my veins turning to ice.

The Commander ignores her. “M17,” he says gruffly, “Come with me. Now.”

Loemi looks at me, her eyes wide. I push myself off the counter, tossing her a small smile, and follow the Commander as we weave through the nurses and cots scattered throughout the medical ward. Everyone stares as we walk past, and I keep my eyes focused on Commander Ren’s billowing cloak. He takes me to the elevator, punching the button for the highest level. I stand behind him and to the left, looking down at our dark silhouettes in the metal floor of the cart.

The door opens, and I follow him down a corridor that looks similar to mine. We pass several doors, all with the glowing white thumb scanner that my quarters have as well. We reach the very last one on the left and the Commander approaches it, waving his hand swiftly. He enters the room, and I pause in the doorway. He turns and waits expectantly for me to join him, and I do.

This must be the Commander’s quarters. The room is triple the size of mine, with the entire back wall being taken up by a large window to space. He has a full bookshelf that is riddled with books, trinkets, and devices. To the right is two black leather sofas, a large table with chairs, and a huge bed. The room is the same basic setup as mine, but extremely nicer and more personalized.

I don’t get much time to scan the room as the Commander charges forward, ripping off his helmet and slamming it onto a podium that sits near his bookshelf. A fine dust settles around it, and he turns back to face me. He reaches into his cloak and reveals a comm-link, holding it out to show me. “Why do you even have this?” he asks, and it is hard to pick out the emotion he says it with, even with his mask off.

“Is that mine?” I ask, my eyes darting from the comm-link to his bare face. “Did you go into my quarters?”

“Why didn’t you answer me?” he rebuts.

I don’t know how to respond. Because I didn’t know that it was you. I didn’t know if it was General Hux, calling me back to his office to ‘reassign’ more operatives. If it was Loemi or Dr. Craine, saying their final goodbyes and letting me know I would never see them again. If it was Dr. Iyshaak, telling me I needed to come back as the matron nurse since the Finalizer lost theirs.

A silences falls between us, and Kylo sets the comm-link on the counter top. It clanks lightly. “You were in extreme distress.” I stare at him, but he keeps his eyes on the comm-link as he fiddles with it. “I could feel it from here. It was getting worse. I tried to contact you, and you didn’t answer. I went to your quarters, and you weren’t there. I—” he stops, blinking, still looking at the device in his gloved hand. “It disturbed me. I didn’t know what happened, or where you were.”

“Oh,” is the only thing that manages to slip out of my mouth. Just as with Loemi, I find it hard to speak, to feel anything well enough to create sentences or even a cohesive thought. I need to sleep. Now that I know that Loemi is safe, I feel the darkness tugging in the back of my mind. The wound on my arm throbs dully.

Kylo lays the comm-link down, then looks at me. “Are you alright?” he asks, with the same cadence and emotion that he had when he asked me about my arm.

“Why?” I ask, more sharply than I intended to. He glares at me. “Why does it matter? Why are you checking up on me? Why did you—” I stop, but I can tell by the look in his eyes that he knows what I’m referring to. He swallows at the memory. I do, too. “I thought we couldn’t…”

“Mil,” he says softly, and the sound of my ‘name’ on his lips sends a shock wave through my body. I feel my heart catch fire. I suck in a breath, and he takes a step towards me. “I find that it is much harder to ignore than I anticipated. Not knowing where you are, what is causing you pain, if you’re safe or not, it’s torturous.” He whispers the last word. “Being with you brings me peace, helps me focus. I can’t… I don’t want to ignore you.”

He takes another step towards me, and now he is towering over me, raven hair framing his face, golden eyes locked onto mine. His body near mine comforts me, and after the past few days, I find that all I want to do is curl into it and close my eyes and forget about the thoughts that plague my mind.

As if on cue, his right arm snakes forward and wraps around me, pulling me into his hard chest. I nuzzle underneath his chin, letting my head rest against his collarbone, and his other arm wraps around me, fingers grazing up my back and lacing into my hair, cradling my head against him. It’s the safest and most content I have ever felt in my life.

I close my eyes. There is an energy radiating off of him that calms me, soothes my fears and doubts, and I feel myself slipping away. Warm lips press against my forehead, and I feel my heart alight again. “Are you tired?” he asks lowly, and I nod.

He lifts me off the ground, tucking one arm under my legs and the other under my back, and carries me over to the large silken bed. He releases my legs to pull the blanket down, laying my body on the bed and covering me with the sheet. My head feels heavy against the pillow.

“Do you need medicine?” he asks lowly. I shake my head. “I still have some work to do. I will be over there if you need anything.” He nods towards the table across the room, and give him a faint smile. “I will be gone early in the morning. Don’t be alarmed if I am not here. You can stay as long as you’d like, though.”

Kylo removes my boots and jacket, laying them at the food of the bed. He adjusts the blanket, then pads over to the sofa, where his holopad sits. He activates it, illuminating his pale skin in a soft blue color. I watch him for as long as I can, eyes darting across the screen, the left one obscured by a lock of hair, before I can no longer fight the cloak of sleepiness that rests over me like the silken blanket. I close my eyes.

---

I am walking through the forest of tall, thick trees. As always, I graze my hands along them as I go. I look up, and the sky is full of gray clouds. It will rain at any second. I can hear the creek and the birds.

Kylo appears beside me, unmasked, his hand intertwined with mine. I look down at it, then back at him. “Are you evil?” I ask softly.

He doesn’t answer, just brings his hand up to cradle my face. His skin is warm against my cheek. I lean into it and close my eyes.

When I open them, I am laying in an unfamiliar bed. I lay still, my body frozen, eyes darting around and trying to register my surroundings. My eyes find a window, a table, a sofa, a bookcase, and next to it, a podium. I remember Commander Ren’s mask slamming into it, and then I remember where I am. I prick my ears, trying to listen for any sounds of life within the room. I hear none. I sit up, my wounded arm shaking in protest. Kylo is not in the room with me.

I glance to my left, where I can see where the blanket was pulled back and someone was in bed with me. My heart races at the thought.

Groaning, I lift the blanket off of myself and swing my legs off of the side of Kylo’s bed. I stand, retrieving my jacket and boots and slowing putting them back on. What time is it? I rub my eyes, walking quietly towards the door to the Commander’s quarters, making sure to snatch my comm-link off the counter before I depart. Suddenly feeling very conspicuous, I wait just beyond the sensor of the door, listening to see if I hear any voices or boots clicking in the corridor.

When I have convinced myself that the coast is clear, I dart out of Kylo’s room, the door hissing to a close behind me. As soon as it is entirely shut, I change my pace to look calm and at ease, smoothing out my crinkled pants. I do not pass anyone on my trek to the elevator, and I slip inside of it, pressing the button to send me one floor down. I exit, and this corridor is just as empty as the one above it. I traipse slowly to my room, pressing my thumb against the pad and hopping inside.

I feel disheveled in my messy Director uniform, so I shed it and instead don my casuals. I order myself some breakfast, settling back into the bed and flicking on my holopad. It is very early in the morning. I have a message from General Hux, asking that I take a look at the current class at the Academy and choose which ones are ready to take the places of the nurses that are now missing from Starkiller Base. Due to my injury, he says, I can complete the assignment from my quarters and do not need to report to the bridge until next week. My body relaxes, and I slide deeper into my pillow.

When my breakfast arrives, I have only reviewed about seven of the twenty-three available Academy students. I bring my holopad with me to the table by my window, taking slow bites as I scroll through the Academy information. Reading the statistics of the candidates reminds me of Syla, who unfortunately, was not extracted in the Resistance operation. Thinking about the mission brings thoughts of Loemi and the Rebellion back into my mind, and a sick feeling pools in my stomach as I stare at the faces of the Academy students.

I exit out of the page and return to the home screen, pulling up the list of ongoing and future operations. On the third page, I find it: the operation to destroy the fuel metropolis. I select it, reading through the plan and the assigned operatives. I see that a field nurse has already been added to the list. I deselect them, instead adding myself as the active field nurse on the mission. As I do, my holopad beeps, and I check my inbox to see a message inviting me to a briefing two nights from now. I stare at the message for a few moments, before exiting and reopening the files of the Academy candidates.

Chapter Text

My fingers tap rapidly against the smooth, cold surface of my holopad.

I finish my work and send it off to General Hux, closing my holopad quickly and tossing it onto my bed. Then, I head for the shower, stripping off my Medical Director uniform and slipping my hair out of the tight knot at the base of my neck. The water is warm, but I don’t have much time to enjoy it. The ship headed to Capis, capital city of Ryzo, leaves in a mere thirty minutes.

I scrub my body quickly, shutting off the water and throwing a towel on. I traipse to my closet, my hands sifting through the hanging clothes until I find the thin, stretchy material of my field nurse jumpsuit. I slip my body into it, then cram my feet into my boots. I throw my wet hair back into the low bun again and strap my holster across my waist.

I hear a soft knock at my door. I turn and dart across the room, swiping my hand to open the door. It slides open to reveal Loemi’s soft warm eyes, her brow knotted. “Hey, Mil,” she starts.

“Hello,” I smile, walking back to my closet. I kneel down to grab my backpack from the back corner of it. I pull it towards me, unzipping it to see if I need to restock on anything before I depart.

“Where are you going?” I hear her ask.

“I’m the designated field nurse for the mission you spoke of a few days ago,” I say calmly, deliberately leaving out that I assigned myself to it. “To Capis, the city we get the land fuel from.”

I hear Loemi take in a breath. I still do not look at her, instead continuing to rummage through my backpack, then return the items to where they were originally. “Is that what Commander Ren called you to speak to you about that day, too?”

The mention of Commander Ren makes my face grow hot. Immediately, I see his face in the blue glow of his holopad, golden eyes darting as he reads, oil black hair framing his face. I lick my lips. Thankfully, my eyes are still downcast. A reaction like that would be hard to hide from Loemi. “Yes,” I lie, finally closing the backpack and throwing it onto my shoulders. I turn to face her. Her arms are crossed, bottom lip pulled in between her teeth, eyes to the floor. “I’ll be fine Loemi, I always am,” I assure her.

She smiles slightly. “I know,” she nods, glancing at me. “I’m just ready for all of this to be over. Please be careful.”

“I will.”

We exit together, both turning right to approach the elevator. Loemi presses the button, and we stand side by side as we wait for the cart to rise towards us. It beeps at its arrival, and we enter, Loemi pressing Level 2 for the medical bay, and I press Level 1 for the hangar. She gives my hand a squeeze as the elevator slides down to her floor, then saunters out of the cart and makes a left, disappearing out of sight. The doors close, and then I am lowered to the hangar of the Finalizer.

I strut out into the hangar, and to my right I immediately recognize the general that led the briefing I attended last night. His dark, almost black eyes meet mine, and he nods. “Nurse M17.”

“General Qi’iv,” I respond, giving him a quick bow. We walk side by side onto his ship, modeled in the same vein as all the other spacecraft of the First Order. It is larger than Commander Ren’s, yet styled more basically. Behind us, the stormtrooper captain and his troops march in, their boots clanking against the metal ramp in perfect unison. The lobby of this ship is wide, but there does not appear to be a dormitory. There is also no private quarters; only one door that leads to the cockpit. General Qi’iv motions for me to follow him into the pilot’s cabin, along with Captain PW-288. He sits in the pilot’s seat, I sit in the other, and the Captain stands as the ship powers to life.

The stomps of several stormtroopers’s footsteps echo from the lobby, and my heart sinks as I realize just how many of them have been brought for this operation. When in the briefing, General Qi’iv explained that some suspicious activity had been reported at the city of Capis, and we were going to perform an inspection to, hopefully, defuse these rumors. He did explain, in the event that the Capisians are in fact helping the Resistance, that drastic measures would need to be taken. According to Loemi, the First Order already knows for a fact that Capis is assisting the Alliance. If General Qi’iv does, I am unsure.

The trip to the planet of Ryzo is not long. I sneak a few glances over at the General, trying to get some sort of gauge as to where his head is at. His eyebrows are knotted, hands gripping the controls so tightly that his knuckles turn white against his dark skin. I look at his eyes again, and I see impatience, anger, determination, anticipation. Does he know?

A soft blue planet looms into view, brushed with strokes of lush green and wisps of clouds. As we approach the largest strip of land, I am able to make out the shapes of buildings and the tiny figures walking, riding, talking, sitting, outside and within them. A knot forms in my stomach. I stare at my lap instead.

A towering structure, taller than any other building in the metropolis, appears to our left, and the ship veers towards it. This must be the capital building. I can see several landing pads suspending around the building, where the top floor serves as the main hub of activity. There are freight ships, loading large vessels of fuel on and off of them. Small droids and beings scurry about, grabbing the containers and hauling them to and from the hub. Several officials, decked in leather vests and black caps, stand with arms crossed, nodding to each other as they survey the work. When we approach the closest landing pad, we raise the wings of or ship and slowly lower to its surface. The two closest officials turn and hurry towards our ship.

General Qi’iv exits first, flanked by the Captain and another stormtrooper. I follow suit, trailed by the remaining troopers. An official with a gold crest on his right breast approaches him, extending a hand. “General,” he nods, and General Qi’iv shakes his hand sternly. “We are excited for our inspection today. Everything is on schedule.”

“Good,” the General nods, knotting his hands behind his back. The two officials take turns nodding towards us. The crested man skips over me, but the woman by his side keeps her eyes on me a few moments before moving on. They are soft and brown, a contrast to her icy blonde hair, which hands in braids down her back.

Our attention is piqued by the sound of another aircraft descending to the left of ours. I recognize this immediately as Commander Ren’s ship. The ship lands gently, and the ramp hisses open. Commander Ren storms down the ramp, followed by his own squadron. Unlike ours, they have their guns unholstered and held across their chests. With his mask on, his emotions and attention are unknown to me. With his cloak, hood up, and gloved hand readily waiting by his lightsaber, a dark ambiance settles over the entire area. Within seconds, they have crossed the small bridge and joined our group.

“Hesten,” he says to the official, and does not extend a hand or any sort of greeting. His voice is harsh and curt. “I will be joining the inspection held by General Qi’iv today. I have received some news that disturbs me regarding shipments of fuel unrelated to the First Order. It is my hope that this news is incorrect.”

Hesten does not flinch, but the woman official behind him casts her eyes to the ground. “I can assure you, your hope will be fulfilled, and I apologize that false information has reached you.”

He turns and starts towards the hub, and General Qi’iv follows. Commander Ren’s mask turns towards me, and he waits for me to join him before walking towards the hub. The General notices this and falls in line behind us.

“Director,” he says under his breath, arms swinging by his side.

“It’s Nurse,” I say back, leaning my head towards him to keep our conversation private. “I’m acting as a field nurse on this operation. But yes, Commander?”

“Can I ask why you’re here? In my report, Nurse O90-D45 was the field nurse.”

“I made some alterations a few days prior to the mission, because I saw them fit.” I keep my head tilted. “In my report, General Qi’iv was heading this operation, not you.”

“I made some alterations as well,” he says simply, keeping his attention forward. “A few hours ago.”

We arrive at the main entrance to the hub: a large set of silver doors. Hesten scans something on his palm, and we enter, where huge vats of fuel hang from the ceiling. The same small droids and beings man the controls of them, slowly pouring the fuel into the containers I saw outside. It is hot and muggy inside, with a thick, metallic smell. The shouts of workers, groans of mechanisms manipulating the heavily weighted vats, and sharp sliding of the containers bounce around on the metal walls. Commander Ren leans closer so I can hear him: “I can’t say I’m surprised to see you appear where you are not expected.”

“Likewise,” I breathe back, and a sound similar to a huff of breath emulates from his mask.

Hesten leads us towards the closest lines of containers, currently being labeled by a few workers. He gestures towards them. “This is the next shipment scheduled for the First Order to receive. Please, have a look—”

Commander Ren steps forward, directly past Hesten, and continues down the line of organized shipments, looking them up and down. Hesten and his female companion turn to watch him. He weaves in and out of them, hands balled into fists, moving quickly. He must be looking for something in particular.

After a few seconds, Hesten moves towards him, raising a hand. “Commander, might I ask what you are looking for? I would be happy to help you locate—”

“Shipment number 87.” Commander Ren reappears, cutting Hesten off again and walking briskly towards him. “Shipment number 87 is missing 4 vats of fuel. Where are they?”

Hesten doesn’t move. “Commander, they must have been skipped over on accident. That shipment is scheduled for much later, we can simply take vats from a later date to replace them.”

“Shipments 86 and 88 are complete. Why is 87 missing fuel?” Commander Ren is standing directly in front of Hesten now. Even though Hesten is a large man, the Commander still towers over him, his wide shoulders visible from behind the official.

“Sir, I can assure you, it was an honest mistake. We can have the fuel replaced tomorrow.”

“Was it a mistake? It mistakenly ended up in the hands of the Resistance?”

At this, Hesten hesitates, and I assume the truth is clear as day on his face. The woman official turns on her heel and attempts to weave through our group, but two stormtroopers raise their weapons at her, and she freezes in place. She raises her trembling hands above her head, tears brimming in her eyes.

The sound of Commander Ren’s lightsaber crackling to life brings my attention back to him. Without hesitation, he slices Hesten in half; his body crumbles to the ground with a sound of lifeless meat. The sound is sickening. His companion screams, and is immediately gunned down by the stormtroopers. She falls to a heap before them.

I whip around, hair flying out of my bun and stinging my cheeks. Commander Ren charges forward, swinging his lightsaber, which hums and sizzles as he destroys the officials that came to Hesten’s aid. I hear blaster fire erupt, all of the stormtroopers and General Qi’iv firing at every soul within the hub. I watch as droids fall from the rafters, crashing into the ground and breaking into pieces. The organic workers scream and run for the exits; none of them make it. Their bodies pile on each other, their comrades becoming an obstacle for escape. A few officials appear, firing their own guns, but they are unskilled and none of their blasts make contact. They, too, are obliterated by the First Order.

I can do nothing but stand. The sounds of work and machinery that once reverberated the walls of the hub are now replaced with screams of terror, pleads for life, blaster fire, and a crackling saber. My blood feels icy. My hands are numb. My eyes travel from each soul to the next that is struck down, undefended, just men and women who were supplying fuel for land vessels. Some who may have no political alliance. Some who may have been completely unaware of anything other than making sure the fuel ended up in the containers.

Eventually, there are no more sounds of life from the Capisians. The blaster fire stops. Commander Ren appears next to me, sheathing his saber. I nearly jump out of my skin at his mechanical voice in my ear. “Let’s go. Our work here is done. I don’t think any troopers will be needing medical attention.”

I cannot respond. I look into the oil black mask and nod. He turns to General Qi’iv: “Go through the entire building. No survivors.”

“Yes sir,” the General agrees, and they all head towards the elevator, weapons raised. They have to maneuver around around the bodies, some intact and some not, that litter the floor. I watch them go, my brain numb, my body frozen.

I feel fingers on my back, and I jump. I whip around and see it’s the Commander, lightly brushing the space between my shoulder blades, prompting me to walk with him. I do, trying to be conscious of the bodies lying with arms stretched towards me, begging for me to have done something, to stop the carnage, to save them. I feel bile rise in my throat.

I can hear the continued frenzy downstairs as we exit the hub and approach Commander Ren’s ship. The ramp descends before us and we enter. I don’t feel my legs and I take my seat in the copilot’s chair. Commander Ren sits beside me, his hand gripping a lever and slowly easing it forward. He presses a few buttons above his head, then settles into his seat as we rise off the landing pad.

We exit the atmosphere of Ryzo, and it slowly shrinks and disappears from my view. Commander Ren activates auto pilot, then swivels his chair to face me. “Are you alright? I sense a great discomfort from you.”

“Why…” My voice is surprisingly weak. I stop, swallowing, and then try again. “Why did we have to kill everyone?”

“Nurse, they were supplying fuel to the Resistance. I believe that explains itself,” Commander Ren quips.

“Then kill the officials,” I fire back, looking deep into his mask and wishing desperately that I could see his eyes, to have some inkling as to where his head is at and what he is feeling. “There was no reason to take out all the workers, those innocent people.”

“Everyone was involved, Nurse. We cannot pick and choose who we spare. The First Order is a force to be reckoned with. There is no tolerance for assisting a radical, terroristic group.”

“I don’t believe that everyone was involved. I think some were just trying to have a damn job, and get food on the table,” I spit at him, anger boiling within me. “They didn’t give a shit where the fuel was going to.”

I hear a shushing noise coming from the Commander’s mask, and he reaches forward, cradling my hand within his. I am surprised that he is not being combative, and instead genuinely trying to soothe me. Even through both of our gloves, the feeling of his hand on mine is electric. “I understand what you’re feeling. I felt that way too, for a while. I wasn’t always…” he pauses, choosing his words, then continues. “I didn’t always have access to the information that I do now. I believe that as you continue your role as Medical Director, the importance of the First Order’s mission will become more clear to you. Typically, the lower the rank of an individual, the more of a black-and-white view of the war they have. Things must be done a certain way. The Supreme Leader knows what he is doing.”

I cannot find comfort in his words. All I can see are the images of the Capisian workers scattered across the floor. I turn away from the Commander and instead focus on the stars that shoot across the inky blackness of space.

Ren takes his hand from mine, reaching up and unhinging his mask. He pulls it off slowly, hair cascading from its confines and landing against his cowl, lips parting as he looks at me. He places his helmet on the ground, then reaches forward for my hand again. “Mil,” he begins, and the sound of my name on his lips yet again makes my heart pound. “It is very dangerous to speak thoughts that defy or challenge the will of the Supreme Leader. Please, if you feel this way again, come and talk to me. Do not confide in anyone else. I can promise that your concerns will never reach the ears of anyone that would cause you harm.”

I hold his gaze, his golden eyes studying me, reading me, to see if I trust what he’s saying to me. I do. “Thank you,” I say softly, and he grips my hand more tightly.

“I can feel that you are still upset. Do you want to stay with me tonight?”

I suck in a breath, for yet again my heart catches fire at his words. I nod before my brain can even summon up an answer.

---

When Commander Ren’s ship descends and lands in the hangar of the Finalizer, we exit together, side by side. The hangar is empty, save for a few First Order droids working on a fighter that suffered some kind of blaster damage. Looking at them brings the memories of the Capisian workers back to me, and my heart sinks.

We trek across the empty hangar and approach the elevator, and Commander Ren summons it to us. “Commander,” I say, and he turns to me as the elevator beeps. “Do you mind if I get my casual wear from my quarters before joining you?”

With his mask now back in place, his response is cold and mechanical. “Not at all.”

We slide into the cart. Commander Ren presses the button for the highest floor, and I press the button for the one below it. The cart rises quickly, and beeps as it pauses at my floor. I exit.

I traipse down to my quarters and press my thumb again the pad. My door hisses open. I grab my travel bag from my closet and pack a set of casuals, throwing it over my shoulder. I have to move quickly.

I hurry out of my room and walk briskly to the elevator, heading one floor down to Loemi’s quarters. She is the fourth door on the right. I jog to it and knock lightly and quickly, 3 sets of 4 quick beats; no response. I whip back to the elevator and order it to Level 2, the medical bay.

I find her there. She is sitting in a chair in the back corner, filling out something on her holopad. There are only two patients in the ward currently. When she hears me enter, she glances up, and I see relief wash over her face. “How can I help you, Director?” she asks formally.

“May I speak to you privately?” I ask her, gesturing to the office. She nods and follows me into it. Locking the door behind her, she places her holopad on the counter and folds her arms. “I want in,” I say quickly.

Loemi knots her brow. “What do you mean?”

“The Resistance,” I whisper, glancing towards the door and then back at her. “I want to help. I want to end this.”

Chapter Text

The elevator beeps softly, and I exit, shuffling down the hall and towards the Commander’s quarters. Thankfully, I do not pass anyone on my journey. I knock quietly on the door, glancing behind me, but it slides open almost immediately, and I enter.

Kylo is sitting on his couch, scrolling through something on his holopad. He is still in his black cowl and robes, but he has removed his helmet. His eyes find mine, illuminated by the light of his device. He puts it away and I sit next to him, letting my bag slip to the floor. “Are you feeling better?” His voice is low.

“Yes,” I say simply. My absolve to help Loemi quelled my heart and made me feel as though I am bringing justice to the Capisians. She hugged me, told me she was proud, said that together, we could find a way off of this ship and out of this Order. It filled my heart with hope; made me believe that I made the right choice.

But now, sitting next to Kylo, seeing him genuinely concerned for my well-being and knowing what I pledged myself to just minutes earlier, makes a knot grow in my stomach.

“I still sense some discomfort,” he says, standing up and walking towards the counter. “Would you like something to drink?”

“Yes, please,” I nod.

I turn towards the large window to space, my eyes focusing on nothing in particular, zeroing in on the sick feeling in my body. Why does this feel so wrong when it felt so liberating before? I hear him opening and closing a cabinet and the soft clinking of glasses. “Can I ask why you assigned yourself to that mission?” he asks from behind me.

I hear liquid pouring. I swallow a lump in my throat. I decide to tell him the truth: “I had heard rumors about the intent of the mission. And I just…” I trail off, my eyes catching a freight ship zooming off to the left. “I guess I just wanted to see if the First Order would really do something like that.”

“Something like what?” Kylo appears again, holding two cups of dark, steaming liquid. He sets them on the table before us as he nestles back down onto the couch. “Be careful, that’s very hot. Give it a few minutes. It’s made with herbs that should help relax your body.”

I nod, grabbing the cup and holding it with both of my hands. The feeling of the warm glass on my palms is soothing; the heat spreads to my shoulders and chest. I haven’t even taken a sip and I feel more at ease.

“Something like what, Nurse?” he asks again, pulling his own cup towards him and blowing on it.

“Something like murdering an entire city for helping the Resistance. Why not just kill the perpetrators? Or arrest them? I don’t… I don’t understand the necessity of ending innocent lives.”

“The entire city was spared, Nurse. The only lives lost were those that worked in the fuel plant. That was why I joined the operation, because that particular general is aggressive and overzealous, in the same vein as Hux.” This piques my interest. I stare at him as he looks at the wall, his mind replaying memories that he does not share. “I, too, do not relish ending lives.” His eyes find mine again. “But that is a weakness that I am trying to overcome. That I will overcome, with time. But you must understand that there is no such thing as an innocent life. There is no one in the galaxy that is completely light or completely dark. Do not look at it that way. Those men and women were assisting the Alliance, a crime punishable by death. Laws must be enforced, and they must be fair. Trying to pinpoint the extent of someone’s involvement is futile; they will never admit what they have or have not done. Lives lost today will, hopefully, prevent future deaths as well as eventually eradicating the Resistance.”

Kylo takes a sip of his drink, so I do as well. It tastes earthen, minty, and it’s so warm I can feel it slide down my throat. I take in his words and try to understand, but I only feel more confused about what to think, what to believe. When Kylo describes it, it makes sense. It feels right. But then I think of what I witnessed on Ryzo and the conversations I’ve had with Loemi, the closest thing to family that I’ve ever had for as long as I can remember. How can someone I love so dearly and have respected for so long, not be correct? Everything she’s ever taught me before has been correct.

“Is your drink helping?” Kylo’s voice breaks me out of my thoughts.

“Yes, thanks.”

“Try not to let your thoughts dwell on the Capisians, or any Resistance sympathizers for that matter. They are convoluted in their thinking.” He stands, finishing his drink. All I’ve taken is the one sip, so I bring the cup to my lips again and take a gulp. “The galaxy is better off without them.”

I don’t say anything, just stare off into the window of space again. Kylo’s cup clanks against the counter and he approaches the washroom, undoing his cowl. “I’ll be back,” he throws over his shoulder, and shuts the door behind him.

I hear the shower turn on, and I take another gulp of the drink, finishing it off. I rise and drop the cup off next to his, then return to the couch, opening my bag and rummaging through it. I find my holopad, which has a new message on it. It’s from Loemi:

Medical Director,

I am writing to inquire about the latest shipment of medical supplies. It has come to my attention that the Finalizer’s Comaren order appears to be two bottles short. With this being one of our most commonly used medicines, we will need to reorder another case as soon as possible. Please visit the medical bay tomorrow to go over inventory and see if there’s anything else we may need. I would also recommend checking the stock of the other medical posts, since we will be placing an order anyway.

I stare at the screen, my eyebrows knotting. I don’t remember the Comaren shipment being short? I am about to go check my inventory sheet when I realize that she is probably requesting that I meet her regarding something with the Alliance. Coming to this epiphany while sitting in the quarters of the Commander of the First Order makes me feel vulnerable, conspicuous, and I quickly shove the device back into my bag and consequently shove the thought out of my mind.

The shower turns off, and the door to the washroom slides open. Kylo appears, towel slung lowly over his hips and damp hair clinging to his jaw and neck. His broad chest is exposed to me, blushed from the heat of the shower water. I can fully appreciate how broad and cut he is, his muscles rippling under his skin as he pads towards me. Holy fuck.

“Would you like to shower as well?” he asks, walking past me and towards his closet.

“Yes, if you don’t- if you don’t mind.” I stand up, squeezing my eyes shut in embarrassment. I’ve never seen a partially naked body besides my own in anything other than a medical setting, and I never thought my first one would be Commander Ren.

“Go ahead,” he says softly, and I hear him opening a drawer. I don’t glance his way, instead grabbing my bag and shuffling into the washroom.

I undress quickly, throwing my hair into a high bun and flicking the shower back on. The tub and walls are the same oil black as his helmet, and it is a lot more spacious than my own shower. I grab his green soap bar, breathing in the same familiar scent that I smelt in the shower on his ship. I scrub myself, rinsing off and turning the shower back off. I wrap myself in a towel, patting myself dry and then slipping into my casuals from my bag.

I exit the washroom, and my eyes find Kylo, who is standing at the counter and washing our glasses clean. He is wearing black casual pants and a dark gray, thin shirt, which clings to his neck and shoulders from his damp skin. “Oh, sorry,” I call out, “I could have washed those.”

“But you didn’t,” he retorts, and when he turns to place the dishes on the drying rack, I can see the hint of a smile on his lips.

“You’re an ass,” I counter, walking towards him and crossing my arms. I lean against the counter and watch him turn the sink off.

He seems so… normal right now, scrubbing cups and making jokes. It’s hard to imagine that just a few hours ago, he was stripping lives of their bodies, cutting down every being in his path without hesitation or second thought. Without his saber, without his mask, without an audience, he’s a different man; and I am not sure if that fact comforts or terrifies me.

He turns to me, leaning his side against the counter. My eyes travel from his hair to his eyes, to his lips, to his arms. He is honestly one of the most beautiful beings I have ever seen. For as long as I can remember, he was an enigma, a force that brought injured stormtroopers to me every week, a monster behind a mask that I didn’t even know was human. But now, he’s soft brown eyes. He’s lips trying not to smile at me, framed by raven black hair. He’s a man that has rescued me time and time again, when all I ever thought he was capable of was destruction.

How can Commander Ren and Kylo be the same being?

He walks to stand before me, and his hand reaches up and caresses my cheek. My racing mind immediately goes blank, and I feel heat spreading from my core to the tips of my fingers and toes. When he’s this close, he towers over me; his broad frame is able to envelope me completely. His fingers against my skin is electric. I see his lids lower and my heart stops.

Instinctively, I close my eyes, and I can feel that he is leaning towards me. My breath catches in my throat. My heart pounds in my chest.

Suddenly, I feel soft lips against my own, barely brushing against them. It feels like my chest catches fire at the contact. It’s so different than what happened on Starkiller; that was desperate, pleading, messy. This is more calculated, more deliberate, yet more nervous and anticipating. He does nothing more than cradle my cheek, almost as if he isn’t sure that I want to reciprocate anything.

I kiss him back, a little more forcefully, and I place my own hands on his shoulders, letting one rise up to cling to his neck, just below the ear. He kisses me harder, and he takes a half-step closer, pressing his body against mine. I’m trapped between him and the counter. I can feel how hard his body is, how inherently strong he is yet he touches me so gently.

Without warning, a soft sound, barely audible, escapes my lips, and he kisses me again, even harder. His other hand wraps around my back, pulling me into him. The hand on my cheek slides into my hair, and then both of my hands are on his jaw, and we kiss and we kiss, and this feeling of desperation that I’ve never known comes over me. It’s as if he is oxygen and I cannot breathe, or he’s a bubbling brook and I haven’t drank in days. It is completely and utterly immersing and overwhelming.

He stops, pressing his forehead against mine, still holding me tightly against him. I cling to him as well; it’s as if we are both unable to process the feelings and thoughts that are racing through us. I glance up at him, and he is staring ahead, and I see something in his eyes that I didn’t think I would: fear.

I look back down at the ground, my hands lowering to his chest and clinging to his shirt. He grips me tighter. We remain like that for a few moments, before he pulls back to scoop me into his arms and carry me to the bed. He holds me as if I am nothing. He lays me down and crawls into the bed next to me, wrapping his arms around me and pulling me just as close as we were before. His lips find mine again, and we kiss for as long as I can remember, off and on again softly until sleep finally finds me.

---

When I awaken, Kylo is gone.

The bed next to me is empty, just as it was the last time that I spent the night with him. A quick survey of his quarters reveals to me that he is not here at all. I throw the blanket off, and when I trudge over to my bag, I realize that the only clothes I have is my field jumpsuit from yesterday’s mission. I change back into it, and try to tame my wild hair back into a low bun. I pray silently no one catches me leaving his room on my way back to my quarters.

The door slides open and I exit quickly, swinging my arms as I walk as fast as possible towards the elevator. I ride it down one more level, and I have to consciously try not to break into a run to reach the door to my room. I finally do, jamming my thumb against the scanner.

Once the door slides shut, I throw off the jumpsuit and shower again, this time letter the water cascade over my hair so I can wash that as well. I get out and dress into my Medical Director uniform, turning around in the mirror, surveying how different it looks on my body compared to the jumpsuit. It feels strange on me now, after my conversation with Loemi, to see the First Order insignia on my left chest.

I exit my quarters, keeping my chin held high as I strut towards the elevator again. I ride it to the second level, and when the door opens and I walk out, I am greeted by a familiar face. My heart turns icy.

“Director,” General Hux smiles, nodding towards me. He was heading towards the elevator, but he stops and turns, I assume to join me on my walk to the infirmary.

“General,” I nod back, and as expected, our boots clank in unison against the cold, metal floor.

“The Supreme Leader, as well as myself, is very pleased with the work you’ve done so far,” he smiles down at me. “I’ve also noticed that you are still participating on operations. I do believe that the right choice was made, regarding this position.”

“Thank you, General. I am relishing in my new responsibilities and what I can contribute to the Order.”

“Are you headed to check the inventory for regarding the missing Comaren?” he asks, and my heart pounds in my chest. How does he know this? I received that message from Loemi not even twelve hours ago. Is he letting me know that he has access to my messages? How often is that checked?

“Yes.” I try to keep my voice level. “The inventory was complete per my records, so I am not sure where the miscommunication is. Hopefully, this will be dealt with quickly.”

Hux smiles, then stops in his tracks. “I have other matters I must attend to, Director. Please, excuse me.” And he turns on his heel, knotting his hands behind his back and traipsing back towards the elevator.

I scurry into the medical bay, where I find Loemi tending to a patient at table 5. She sees me, finishes her wrapping on the stormtrooper’s left arm, then joins me in the office, locking the door behind her.

“Hux knows why I’m here,” I start breathlessly, and her eyes widen. “Well, he knows you reached out to me regarding the Comaren. He said something to me about it in the corridor.”

“That’s odd,” Loemi says quietly. “Do you think he is keeping a close eye, after what happened on Starkiller?”

“That makes sense,” I nod, and it quells my heart just a little bit. “I was worried that he might be onto something.”

“There’s nothing for him to be on. I’ve never sent a message or left any sort of physical evidence of my affiliations. You can’t be so jumpy, Mil. You need to always keep your cool.” Her voice is crisp and defensive. She sighs, settling down on Dr. Iyshaak’s chair. “The Comaren is not here, but I do know where it is.”

She doesn’t say anything else, just stares down at the floor, chewing her lip. I lean against the counter, and immediately I am taken back to Commander Ren’s quarters. I can feel his body and his lips on mine. I shake away the thought. “Meaning?”

“Meaning, I had one of the nurses at the medical outposts take an extra two bottles.” Her eyes find mine. “It’s in the asteroid belt, Vesta Pallas. We are going to ‘discover’ that they have the extra shipment, and you will go to retrieve it and perform an inspection of the infirmary.” She lowers her voice. “The personnel of this base are sympathizers. A Resistance member will meet you there, and you will give him this.” She hands me a data chip.

I take it from her, turning it over in my hands. “What’s on it?”

“Information that General Organa requested from me. I told them of your involvement, and they want you to supply the information to make sure you can be trusted.” She stands up, grabbing her holopad and activating it. “I sent that message and attached all of the matron nurses of the First Order onto it. I’ve already received word from H79-R45 that he has the extra bottles.” She types something quickly, then closes it and places it back down. “Just go to the hangar and order a shuttle to take you there, it isn’t too far. And I think it goes without saying that this conversation is over, and it is not to be repeated or mentioned through speech or any sort of communication whatsoever.”

I nod, stuffing the data chip into my pocket. “Anything else?”

She pauses before she answers. “Always, be careful.”

---

Vesta Pallas is very cold.

I arrive in my Medical Director uniform, with my black First Order jacket over it. I have my snow boots on, as well as my holster, equipped with my blaster. After navigating the series of asteroids, we landed on the largest one, where a dome-like structure sits, situated in the middle of the rock. There are a series of tunnels that connect several smaller domes to the largest one. We approach the one on the far left, and I can see nurses scuttling about within the corridors. We reach a landing pad, and the ramp descends through a light blue force field. I exit, and the stormtrooper and droid that accompanied me stay on the ship.

I am approached by a matron nurse, a man with soft brown hair and a pair of goggles over his eyes, who bows to me quickly as I stand before him. I’m still not used to this. “Director.” His voice is nasally and high-pitched. “I apologize profusely about the mix up. Please, follow me to retrieve the medicine.”

The data chip burns a hole in my pocket as I follow him through the tiny hangar of the outpost, our breath swirling before us. A frosted sliding glass door opens for us, and we are walking through the very same tunnels that I saw from up above. A medical droid zooms past us, its archaic wheels squeaking as it does so. The sound is piercing in the cramped corridor.

H79 takes a left, and then another left, and then we are in the medical ward of Vesta Pallas. The equipment is much more dated than anything I have ever seen while working with the First Order. I recognize some of the instruments as old devices that Dr. Craine had. He trained me on how to use them, in the event that they would be the only tools available to me during an emergency. I’m not sure I could use them, even now.

There are only two live nurses here; anything else is handled by medical droids. The First Order uses them strictly as a last resort; even though they are more accurate with their calculations, they cannot think for themselves. They only do as they are programmed to do; they cannot improvise, survey a patient or situation.

“Director, the Comaren is back in dry storage,” H79 nods to a large metal door towards the back of the hub. “Please let me know if you need any assistance in retrieving it.”

He gives me a look before turning his attention to the only other nurse in the room. My attention goes back to the door, and I approach it, reaching out to grasp the large handle and pull it open.

Inside are shelves of medicines, even older equipment strapped to the walls, and a young man in a pilot’s uniform. He has dark brown, disheveled hair and vibrant eyes that contrast with his tan skin. When I enter, he gives me a lopsided grin. “Hi.” His voice is loud, confident, warm. “I believe we have an exchange to make.” He extends his arm, revealing two bottles of Comaren.

At first, I don’t know what to do. I stare at the medicine, then back at him, and he laughs loudly. “I’m not gonna do anything to you, shit. Just take the medicine and give me the chip.”

I take it from him, digging in my pocket to retrieve the chip and dropping it into his open palm. His fingers curl around it. “Well thank you, ma’am. I didn’t think a First Order professional would be this timid.”

A flash of irritation surges through me. “I guess I didn’t expect my first Rebel spokesman to be so unprofessional.”

The man laughs again, clapping me on the back. “I guess you’re just used to a bunch of stiffies; that makes sense.”

I can’t help but to knot my brow at him. How can he be so blasé? While meeting someone for the first time, someone that he’s judging to see if he can trust, someone employed by the very organization he is dedicating his life to destroy? “Who are you?” I ask him.

“That’s classified information,” he says calmly, raising his eyebrows at me. “Prove your worth, and I’ll tell you one day. What about you? What do you do for the men in black?”

“I’m a nurse. Well, now I’m the Medical Director.”

“Well that definitely sounds like it could come in handy. Thanks for the info, kid. I’m sure I’ll see you again.”

Chapter Text

I feel like I wear my affiliation with the Resistance man on the front of my Medical uniform, like a large, spreading bleach stain across an otherwise black tunic.

If it’s visible, no one has said a word to me yet. Every stormtrooper and First Order official I’ve passed have treated me as normal. I try not to let the thoughts of the young Rebel man consume me. I keep my jaw taut and eyes forward.

I make my way back to my quarters; the door slides open and I quickly dart inside. I take a shower in an attempt to clear my head. I stand in the warm stream long after I’ve washed both my hair and body, hoping that if I sit there long enough, the memory and feelings of what I’ve done will also swirl down the drain.

I dry off, weaving my damp hair into a braid and snuggling into my bed. I scroll through my holopad, glancing over the message from General Hux detailing my assignment for tomorrow. Then, I close it, tossing it to the foot of my bed, then roll over and try to fall asleep.

---

I feel it again: the damp earth beneath my feet. The wind gently tugs my hair backwards, chillier than it has been before. There is a heavy mist that hangs in between the thick, sturdy trees. If I were to reach my hand out in front of me, I could almost catch the water droplets suspended in the air.

I am alone, walking through the forest, being pulled a certain direction but I don’t know what my destination is. I am suddenly reminded of Loemi’s words in the office of the medical bay, so many days ago: There is an uncharted jungle planet under the Rebellion that could safely house the refugees.

There is safety ahead. And danger behind.

I feel it creeping behind me, raising the hair on my neck. I can almost feel it clawing for my body, just barely missing my back. I break into a run, darting through the trees, the terror spreading through me and rising in my throat. I tear desperately through the shrubbery, splash loudly across the creek. I reach the face of a cliff, never ending on both sides, rising into the mist.

I whip around, reaching for my blaster, but I don’t have it. I’m in my scrubs. I back against the wall, eyes darting back and forth, ready to face whatever appears from the milky atmosphere.

A dark figure approaches, blacked out beneath the shadows. As they draw nearer, I notice the short height, the slim figure. I knot my brows: it’s a woman.

I sit up in bed, and I feel sweat beading on the crown of my head. I wipe it away swiftly, taking in my surroundings, trying to calm down as my brain registers where I am. My quarters. Not the forest.

I rise, traipsing to the closet and dressing into my Medical Director uniform. I hold it out in front of me: no stain.

I pull my hair out of the braid and instead wrap it into a low bun at the nape of my neck. I take a quick look over myself in the mirror, then exit, making my way to the bridge to get some work done. The door slides open and I step out, head held high. I nod to those I pass.

The bridge is quieter than what I have become accustomed to. There are only about three generals, one being General Hux, who eyes me as I enter. I give him the same curt nod, adding a small smile, and approach my computer. He steps away from the others, hands clasped behind his back, and matches my grin. The sight of it gives me a sick feeling.

“Medical Director,” he greets as he reaches my desk, still holding the smile.

“Good morning, General,” I retort.

“I trust you have reviewed the assignment that I sent you for today.”

“Yes. I have previously looked into the quantities of shipments, and I hadn’t seen any issues. I’m more than happy to review them again and let you know if we need any less or more of a particular product. “ I log into my screen, immediately pulling up the inventory charts. “If you don’t mind me asking, do we need to lower costs? In that case, it might be more beneficial to log all medicines and equipment used by each of the wards and then—”

He holds a hand up. “Director, if I may, something more pressing has come to my attention.” I stare at him, drawing my hands away from my keyboard. “S19-T01 is not improving, and in some instances, even performing more poorly than she has before.”

Syla. I stare at him, trying to ignore the chills running down my spine.

“I am aware that she has passed the program, and has even had one on one training with you back on the Supremacy. As you know, I had previously had you review the profiles of the new Academy recruits. Their credentials should still be available to you on your computer. Please assign them accordingly, as we lost quite a few of our personnel on the breach of Starkiller. Also, choose which one shall replace S19.”

My blood turns to ice. I don’t move, but I don’t dare look away from his gaze. All I can do is blink, my mind racing, different scenarios battling out to keep my attention, and all of them are terrible.

When I still don’t respond, General Hux continues on. “I want you take into account all of their scoring, but also review the comments on their training. S19 had some of the highest marks on her testing, but her performance was hesitant and unsure from the very start. I believe this was overlooked when she was originally assigned. Please make sure all facets of the students’s profiles are assessed before any decisions are made.”

I finally tear my eyes away from his, instead focusing on the blank screen of my computer, waiting for me to log onto it. Loemi. I have to tell her. We have to do something. I have to do something. What can I do? I realize that the General is still standing over me, waiting for me to acknowledge the assignment he has just given me, but I cannot. After a few moments, he knots his hands behind his back and departs.

Once General Hux is out of my sight, I stand quickly from my chair and charge out of the bridge, head down, hands balled into fists. Before I realize what I’m doing, I jam my finger onto the elevator button, calling the cart towards me. I enter and order it to the hangar.

---

Starkiller Base is just as cold as I remember it. I dart from the transit into the dark metal building. As I trek through the halls, I pass small custodial droids welding the blaster holes out of the walls, blue sparks flying from around their small frames. Stormtroopers nod to me, and I return the gestures. I keep my head held high as I reach the medical bay, the green frosted doors parting and granting me entrance.

Syla is the only living nurse in the ward; she is surrounded by the archaic medical droids, probably dug up from storage to assist her until more nurses are assigned. She stands at a table, wrapping gauze around a trooper’s bare arm. Dark circles sit under her eyes, and I can see in the way she stands, hunched and trembling, that she is fatigued and stressed. Her head snaps up when I enter, but she relaxes when she sees it’s me. “Nurse,” she breathes, almost dropping the arm of the man she’s helping. He seethes in pain, and I rush over to take the gauze from her and finish the dressing. “Thank goodness, I really need help. I’m the only one here, everyone else was taken—”

“What all do you need to do?” I cut her off, rushing to the sink to scrub my hands, preparing myself for the next task.

“Oh,” she turns, her eyes scanning the full tables of the infirmary. “So much, Nurse, I can’t even tell you who the next patient is. The med droids don’t do very much.”

“Alright, finish checking out this patient.” I nod towards the holopad hovering over the trooper with the gauzed arm. I glance around the room, trying to find the patient who will need my attention first. The most severe appears to be a long laceration down the right leg of a stormtrooper. I dart over to him, pulling the equipment out of the drawer next to him and placing it on the table. I slip on a pair of gloves, then open a package containing a long pink sanitation wipe. I secure it to the man’s leg, who trembles in response. “The sting will stop in a few moments,” I say softly to him, then call out over my shoulder, “Syla! Go to Table 6 next.”

She returns the holopad to its place above the table, then rips off her gloves. She passes by the sink, then stops and returns to it, washing her hands briskly, then rushes by the glove dispenser, again having to pause and retrace her steps. “Relax, Syla,” I shout to her, my attention facing the patient so I can slowly remove the sanitation wipe. When I throw the wipe away, I say to her, “Just focus on one objective at a time.” She nods, grabbing a pair of gloves, and then makes her way to Table 6.

I grab my next instrument, the cauterizing laser, and lean over the trooper, igniting the tool and starting at the base of the wound. My hands slowly travel across the length of the man’s leg, dragging the laser along with it. A long brown line trails behind my hand, and the smell of burning flesh fills my nose.

When I finish cauterizing the wound, I check out the stormtrooper and make my way towards Syla. She is still working on Table 6, so I move on to the next available patient and begin treating him. I work quickly and meticulously, calling over the medical droids and giving them small, simple tasks in an attempt to cover as much ground as possible. Once Syla is finished, I order her to Table 4, and she dashes over to begin her work on that patient.

The medical bay is cleared within a few hours. Syla only touches three of them. I feel sweat pricking the crown of my hair, and I wipe it quickly on my sleeve as I finish the last patient. Syla is cleaning and restocking; I told her that I would handle the remaining patients. When the last stormtrooper is treated, I rise and rip off my gloves, washing my hands. I order the medical droids to their docking stations and shut them down. Syla watches me as I do so, resting her hands on the top of the broom. “Thank you, Nurse,” she says softly, but I find it hard to look at her or respond. I simply nod my head in her direction.

I turn to walk towards the back room, an attempt to find something to occupy my mind. Now that the infirmary is cleared, the words of General Hux bleed back into my thoughts. I open the door and my eyes find cold storage. I charge towards it, opening the door and pulling out the first shelf to reorganize it. Just as my hands touch the first bottle, I hear the doors to the medical ward hiss open. “Hello, General,” I hear Syla greet. My heart pounds into my chest and I quickly slam the shelf back into the cold storage unit.

I dart back into the main room, and I find Syla standing before General Hux. As always, his hands are knotted behind his back. A small smirk sits on his thin lips, pale skin a raging contrast against his flaming hair and icy eyes. He nods his head when I emerge from the door. “Medical Director,” he says simply.

“General,” I retort, my voice sounding more thick and defiant than I intended. I join Syla, standing next to her, and I feel sweat pricking my palms.

General Hux seems amused by my demeanor. “I apologize, Director, I must not have made myself as clear as I intended this morning. This is not what you were assigned to do.” I can hear a casual tone in his voice, as if he were gossiping with a friend. This unsettles me.

“I understood my assignment, General,” I respond, attempting to keep my voice more level this time. “However, I disagreed with the decision. It is my opinion that understanding and assisting our subordinates is more effective than threats and scare tactics.” Syla’s eyes dart back and forth between me and General Hux. “As Medical Director, I assume that my insight regarding medical affairs will be considered.”

“A noble thought, for sure,” he tisks, taking a step backwards. “Unfortunately, what you were presented with were neither threats nor scare tactics, but instructions.” He holds my gaze, his eyes darkening then flicking towards Syla. “Nurse S19-T01, please follow me. You as well, Director.”

Syla gives me a final look before falling in line behind General Hux, who turns and exits the medical ward. I take up the rear of the group, fear rising in my throat like bile. He takes a sharp left out of the infirmary, leading us down a few halls to a small elevator. Instead of a button, the General punches in a code in a keypad next to the door. The door slides open, and we enter, and the cart lowers us into the bowels of Starkiller Base. Syla and I stand side by side, but I cannot summon the courage to look over at her. I do not know where we are going, or what is in store for us. The General looms behind us, his presence making the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention. I cannot shake the overwhelming feeling that, at any moment, he will strike a dagger deep into my back, twisting it and ripping it out only to stab me again. The helplessness I feel is nauseating.

The door opens and General Hux brushes past us, his hands now in fists by his side. We trail behind him. A door to our left hisses open, revealing a dark room with a long metal chair in its center. The chair is adorned with straps and cuffs. When the door closes behind us, a medical droid appears in the corner, its eyes alighting as it comes to life. It approaches the chair, waiting patiently for instructions.

“Have a seat, Nurse.” He turns to Syla, extending his hand towards the chair. Syla looks at me, but I cannot return the stare, my mouth drying. I feel a static forming in the back of my skull, and it spreads into the corners of my eyes. I blink, trying to force it back, but it remains.

When Syla sits down, the medical droid straps her to the chair: one across the chest, one on each arm, each leg. Her ankles, wrists, and neck are cuffed with a loud clanking noise. I jump at the sound. The medical droid turns around, and as it does, General Hux turns to me. “Follow me, Director.”

To our left is a long piece of black opaque glass, and a small door next to it. He opens the door and allows me to enter before him. As I do, the static intensifies, momentarily blinding me. The floor sways beneath my feet. I press my hand against the back wall, trying to steady myself. Now, upon entering the room, I see that we are able to view the room through the black glass.
“I want to make something very clear to you,” General Hux begins, ignoring me bracing myself against the wall. I look up at him, and then through the window, and I see that the medical droid has returned with a syringe filled with a soft pink liquid that I recognize immediately. A small yelp escapes my lips. “This event was inevitable. Your actions have done absolutely nothing as far as deciding this nurse’s fate.”

The droid’s cold metallic hand find the soft flesh of Syla’s arm, flushed red with fear. Her hand balls into a fist, trembling against her restraints. I mistakenly look at her face: her eyes stare pointedly at the ceiling, the hot tears falling so quickly and frequently that she doesn’t need to blink to release them. Mucus dribbles from her right nostril onto her top lip, her entire mouth twisted into a horrible grimace. The pounding pain in my chest and swirling of my stomach is too much to bear. My consciousness tries to flee and I squeeze my eyes shut, trying desperately to steady the room that is spinning around me.

I am able to hear Syla beg once for her life, and I unravel. My stomach lurches and I heave, my throat and chest burning. I crumple to the ground, bracing myself on my hands and knees, sniffling and trying to quell the next bought of sickness.

General Hux crouches next to me, unfazed by my reaction. “Do you hear me, M17? You were given an assignment, and you rebelled. However, it changed nothing. Nurse S19-T01 is dead, and new nurses will be assigned in her place. Your actions and opinions are powerless against that fact.” He stops, allowing myself to regain control of my body, and I stare up at him, swallowing hard. My saliva stings against my raw throat. “Furthermore, I do not want to give the misconception that this is any sort of punishment to you. This is a demonstration, that any act against the First Order is absolutely futile. The will of the Supreme Leader will always be fulfilled. Is that understood?”

My eyes fall back to the ground, and then I close them, trying to keep my breathing steady. He crouches down to meet my eye level, so I gaze back at him. “Currently, you are unable to be reassigned. But that will not last forever. Do as you are told, fulfill your duties. Hopefully, we will not find ourselves in this situation again.” And he leaves, his legs pushing him back into a stand. He walks around me and my mess, and I hear the door open and close. I am not sure how long I remain there before I find the strength to rise as well.

Chapter Text

I’m not sure how long it takes me to compose myself. It could have been five minutes. It could have been an hour. All I know is that I’m now walking down the corridor, the sound of my footsteps muffled by the ringing in my ears. The dark metallic walls of Starkiller Base appear to be closing in on me, and I blink and quicken my pace. I make my way to the hangar and shove my way onto the next transport to the Finalizer.

There are several squadrons leaving and arriving in the deck of the Finalizer. As the ramp to my transport hisses open, I stomp down quickly, my eyes darting through the chaos, trying to locate Commander Ren’s ship. I then realize that it’s not here.

I duck into the elevator, ordering it to my quarters. I am alone on the lift. The ride is quiet. It beeps, signifying its arrival, and I exit. The boots of a group of stormtroopers on the metal floor, as well as my own footsteps, are still muffled to my ears, as if I’m underwater and listening to the sounds of the surface. I turn on my heel and dart towards my door, jamming my thumb onto the pad and slipping inside.

I strip immediately, donning my casuals and pulling my hair out of its bun. I stare at myself in the mirror: red-rimmed eyes, dark circles, pale skin a stark contrast to the flush of my cheeks. I sigh; the physical signs of distress on my face only remind me of what I witnessed just moments before.

I hear my holopad beeping, alerting me to a message. I stomp towards it, swiping it open to reveal its sender, Loemi. It’s the fifth message she’s sent in the past two hours. I don’t open it, instead throwing it onto my bed, but I already know what the message entails. She wants to confirm the data she sees on her own holopad, the whispers from other nurses, the information that Dr. Iyshaak won’t comment on. I don’t have the energy to respond to her right now.

I stand there for a few moments before sighing and trudging towards the bed, yanking back the covers and snuggling beneath them. I grab the holopad that I just tossed and pull it towards me, flicking it open again but just staring at the screen. My thoughts drift to Commander Ren.

I wonder where he is. I open up the list of missions and scroll through, trying to find what was scheduled for today. I find it on the second page: he’s on the second moon of Jupar, meeting with the generals of the outpost. General Hux is with him, so they must have left recently. I find myself wishing that he was here. Surprisingly, whenever things go wrong or I find myself scared and confused within the First Order, he is able to calm me down and explain the rationale behind their actions in a way that makes sense, in a way that comforts me. Though I’m not sure there’s any way to rectify the fate that Syla met tonight.

Suddenly, I feel a sensation at the back of my head, a small pin-prick, slowly trying to push itself in. I freeze, waiting, allowing it to do what it wants. It forces itself gently in farther, starting to form a pressure that I can feel throughout my entire skull. I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to ignore the pain. The force continues deeper in my mind, then tugs something and pulls it to the surface. Immediately, I see Syla strapped to the chair, her face a contorted mess, seconds before death. I gasp loudly, and the moment I begin to resist the force, it evaporates from my head, the memory of Syla disappearing with it. I sit up straight, glancing around the room, trying to find the source of the intrusion in my mind.

I’m snapped from my reverie by the sound of my comm-link buzzing in my nightstand. I fumble with the knob, my hands shaking from the encounter, and retrieve the comm-link, securing it to my ear. “Medical Director,” I say, my voice cracking.

“Mil.” It’s Loemi. I sigh, my heart settling. “What’s going on? What happened to Syla?”

Darkness settles over me. “Loemi, you know what happened to her.”

“I saw she was reassigned, but do you know exactly what happened? You can see more than I do.”

I’m silent. I don’t know what to say. Feeling nauseous again, I press my hand to my forehead and close my eyes. “Not now, Loemi.”

“What do you mean? What do you know?” When I still say nothing, she continues, “If you know what her reassignment entailed, you need to let me know, so we can inform the Resistance. I’ve been trying to reach you all day. Timing is critical--”

“Loemi, I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay?” And I disconnect, putting the device back into my drawer. I bury my face in my hands, shuddering on a breath.

---

My hand brushes against the thick tree, feeling the life pulsing within it. I close my eyes, drinking in the temporary feeling of peace and security. The sounds of the forest and tranquil and comforting. Small, bioluminescent bugs float on the cool breeze, birds cry in the distance.

And then, the sounds of boots on the earth.

I turn and see Kylo, his mask on, walking towards me. Behind him, I see smoke, fire and destruction. The sounds of screams. The life around us disappears; the tree feels dead and it crumbles beneath my touch.

“What’s happening?” I ask, but the mask just stares at me. “What did you do?”

As always, he reaches a gloved hand out towards me, waiting for me to approach him. To join him. I am rooted to the spot.

---

Loemi is silent, staring blankly at the wall of the office, drinking in the reality of Syla’s fate. I’m leaning against Dr. Iyshaak’s desk, my arms crossed. My body still feels numb.

“We knew it,” she says quietly, still looking directly forward. I glance at her. She purses her lips, then continues. “We knew it was like this.”

I sigh deeply. I didn’t tell her that I bore witness to her death. That I was less than five feet away from her body. That I heard her last breath. General Hux’s words echo in my head, and I close my eyes tightly. Any act against the First Order is absolutely futile. The will of the Supreme Leader will always be fulfilled.

“Mil, we have to do something. We have to get out of here.”

“I know,” I say softly, my mind miles away. “We need to get everyone out of here.”

“I’m going to meet with Dr. Craine tomorrow,” she says, standing up. She reaches for her holopad and begins typing. “It’s under the pretense of First Order medical business, of course. But I’ll let him know the situation. He can pass the information on to General Organa, and we can organize a plan of extraction.”

I nod, uncrossing my arms to push off the desk. “Let me know what becomes of it.”

“I will,” she concedes, and she approaches me and envelopes me in a hug. I grip her tightly, suddenly overwhelmed by the mortality of myself and the ones I love. She pulls away, giving me a grim smile, before squeezing my shoulder gently and unlocking the door to return to the medical ward. I follow her, then continue on to exit entirely, giving her a final smile before I do.

I head towards the elevator, straightening my Medical Director uniform, and decide to head to the bridge and see if any work needs to be done. General Hux has not sent me any assignments since I visited Starkiller, bus assuming what he told me was true, I should have some candidates that need reassigning. Another pang of ice hits my chest, but I shake it off, stepping into the elevator and ordering it to the bridge.

When I arrive, the bridge is quiet. I only see four beings on the level, and two of them catch my attention immediately. General Hux and Commander Ren stand before the window to space. General Hux’s hands are, as always, knotted behind his back, his shoulders relaxed. Commander Ren is turned towards him, arms crossed against his chest. I can tell from his body language that he is disinterested in what’s being said to him; mask tilted away, back tensed. I deflect my gaze, heading towards my computer, but instead I hear myself being addressed:

“Medical Director.” The voice is harsh and mechanical. Commander Ren. My eyes meet the oil black visor of his helmet, which is now directed towards me. I change my route to approach him.

General Hux turns to face me, a condescending smile laced across his face. “Ah, Medical Director. I assume you are here to finally fulfill your duties that were assigned to you yesterday.”

My eyes meet his icy blue ones, but before I can answer, Commander Ren interjects: “Actually General, I require the Medical Director’s assistance in a mission today.”

He glares at Commander Ren, who keeps his attention locked onto me. “Commander, I assigned the Medical Director to choosing and placing the replacements after the last string of reassignments. As we previously discussed, instead of performing the actions required of her, Medical Director—”

“This is an urgent matter, General,” Commander Ren pushes off the window, “As you know, the medical staff on the moon of Jupar needs an update on training. I’m sure you will be able to handle placing a few recruits into different medical bays.”

“Commander, the duties of the Medical Director are not to be deflected onto the First Order’s generals,” he says sternly, brow knotting.

“Then delegate it to someone else,” he says curtly, then nods to me, beckoning me to follow him. Without thinking, I fall in line behind him, able to hear the grumblings of Hux but unable to make out any specific words. He guides me to the elevator, presses the button for the hangar, then I see his helmet look towards the floor. “Are you alright?” he asks lowly, with the same cadence as he’s done in the past. The sound sends a chill down my spine.

“What do you mean?” I ask, and his response almost cuts me off.

“I heard what happened with the nurse you care for,” he says, the door to the elevator opening. He leads me towards his ship, the stormtroopers and pilots naturally darting out of his way. The ramp to his ship descends as we approach it.

His boots clank loudly against it, and as I enter behind him, I pause. “Commander, should I go and change into medical gear? I don’t have any equipment—”

“That won’t be necessary,” he says quickly, and I bow my head and follow him into the ship. The ramp hisses to a close behind us.

Commander Ren sits in the pilots chair, pulling the lever in front of him slowly forward. The ship comes to life, and we rise from the hangar and shoot into space. He places the ship onto auto-pilot, then turns to me. Raising his hands, he releases the lock on his mask, which loosens slowly, and he removes it from his head. His hair spills out, framing his face and sticking to his cheeks, which are rimmed with sweat. The sight of his eyes never ceases to ignite a fire in me. “Are you alright?” he asks again, sounding more invasive with the sound of his natural voice.

At this, I answer honestly, “No.” I don’t offer anything else. My eyes find the stars of space, watch as they come zipping by. I realize that, for the first time, we are all alone, on a vessel with just the two of us.

“I’m sorry that had to happen,” Commander Ren says, turning his attention towards space as well.

A silence settles between us. I don’t have a rebuttal to what he’s said, instead deciding to ask, “Why did she have to die?”

“I don’t make those decisions, Mil,” he mutters, meeting my gaze. “As I’ve told you before, the Supreme Leader knows what he is doing. All we can do is obey what we are told. There have been times that I questioned his motives, but I have always been proven wrong. Have faith, Mil.” He says my name, and again, a shock wave is sent through my body. “Just hold on.”

“I’m afraid,” I say simply, gauging his response.

“Of?” he says, his brow knotting slightly.

I hesitate, choosing my words carefully. I lick my lips, then finally utter: “That what we’re doing, what we’re fighting for, is wrong. That we’re on the wrong side.”

Kylo’s face darkens. “Please, don’t say that again. We are on the right side. I know that…” he pauses, glancing out of the window, then back at me. “I know that the ways of the Resistance can seem appealing. I know that what they claim to offer can be very tempting. But you have to understand, the galaxy that they fight for is one that cannot exist. The dreams that they promise you are nothing more than that; dreams. They fight for instant gratification, for a republic that will never function, that will collapse on itself.” He pauses, then continues onto another point. “The Order needs me, and it needs you. The Supreme Leader recognizes this, as do I. Others are not cut out for it. You know that the S10 was lazy, unmovitated, and unfit for the role that she was given. It’s unfortunate, but that’s nature. You are an asset to this Order, and as such, you are sometimes exposed to things that the average being cannot bear.”

I swallow, nodding, and then ask him, “Does this moon really need assistance?”

“Yes. Granted, it may not need the attention of the Medical Director, but I figured time away from the Finalizer could be therapeutic. Take your mind off of yesterday’s events.”

I look at him, and it seems as everything and nothing makes sense at the same time. How can the First Order be led by two men with such different ideals: Hux and Ren? How can Loemi, my family, my sister, oppose someone who makes me feel so secure, who makes the First Order make sense? I feel my lips part; his eyes lower, and he meets me in the middle, his lips brushing gently against mine, and then a second time with more force. For the first time in a few days, I finally feel a sense of comfort, of belonging. He pulls away, and I meet his golden eyes again. “What is this?” I ask softly, unaware of what I said until it leaves my lips. He gives me a confused look, and I add on: “What are we doing?”

His eyes lower, then flick back to me, and I see something in them. Something he wants to tell me, words that swim in his head but refuse to surface, information he is deliberately holding back. But before he can answer, a dot of a planet appears in the window, slowly growing as we approach it. He stands, placing his helmet back onto his head. “Come,” he says, guiding me into the lobby, waiting for the ship to touch down and the ramp to descend.

The moon of Jubar is hot but dry, with sand the size of small pebbles. There is not a single plant in sight. There is a large blue-gray structure immediately before us, and I follow Commander Ren towards it. There are a few stormtroopers on the landing pad, and they salute us as we storm past them.

In the epicenter of the structure, a doctor stands with his medical staff. He turns to me, pale face lighting up. “Medical Director!” he approaches me, clapping me on the back. “Welcome! We’ve heard great things!” He nods at Commander Ren, who does not acknowledge him. He guides us into the stone building, weaving up to the medical bay, where a few stormtroopers lay on the beds. I notice immediately that the equipment they are using is out of date, and I make note of this to the Commander.

We start with immunizations, check ins, basic wound care. Once I begin instructing, I fall into the groove of cauterizations, sanitation, stitches, bacta. I don’t think, I just do what I’m programmed to do, what I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember. I sneak a glance at the Commander, whose arms are crossed as he stands back, and even though his face is concealed, I feel as though I can sense his approval, that he truly believes that I belong here. Thoughts of Loemi and the Resistance bleed into my brain, but I push them out, turning my attention back onto the trooper in front of me, continuing to wrap the bandage around his arm as an example to the others.